2015 Conference Highlights from Massachusetts

4th Annual Social Emotional Learning Conference

“Social-Emotional Learning: The Core of Academic Success and Safe, Resilient Communities”


Massachusetts State House

Boston, MA

May 27, 2015

9:00 AM – 4:30 PM

Leaders showing us what social-emotional learning looks like.

“Creating an environment where every student feels respected and safe is the bedrock upon which our entire educational system is built. The work of the Social-Emotional Learning Alliance for Massachusetts ensures that foundation has an advocate here at the State House and I am pleased to work with them to help improve our education system. The Senate has passed several bills and a budget amendment in the past year which have recognized the importance of ensuring that our schools educate the whole child. I look forward to working with SEL4MA in the future.”  Senate President Rosenberg

Breakout Sessions and Opening Ceremony Attendees

Breakout Session Selections

Advancing SEL in Your Community: Classroom, School & City

Facilitator(s): Ellen Gibson, Newton School Committee Member; Dan Futrell, Somerville School Committee Member; Susan Cole, Director, Trauma & Learning Policy Institute; Amy Kelly, Newton District Leader SEL; Dr. Jack Schneider, Professor, Holy Cross; Ruth Balser, Massachusetts State Representative
Interactive workshop will provide participants with overview of Safe & Supportive Schools legislation & development of statewide SEL frameworks, what Newton & Somerville are doing to advance SEL in these communities & breakout discussions allowing participants to share & learn how SEL is being advanced in other communities.

Bringing Social-Emotional Learning Into Teacher Preparation: Promising Possibilities

Facilitator(s): Deborah Donahue-Keegan, Lecturer, Tufts University; Joy Bettencourt, Associate Professor of Practice, Simmons College; Eleonora Villegas-Reimers, Associate Professor of Education, Wheelock College; Catherine Wong, Director, Urban Outreach Initiatives, Lynch School of Education, Boston College
When teachers’ social-emotional skills are strong, their students greatly benefit in terms of wellbeing and academic outcomes. How can teacher preparation programs better help new teachers develop social-emotional competencies for the long haul? In this interactive workshop, we will address this question, and explore promising ways to bring social-emotional learning to teacher education (SEL-TEd) programs in Massachusetts.

Creating Communities of Learners to Ensure SEL Sustainability

Facilitator(s): Maurice Elias, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University; Patricia Heindel, Dean of Human and Social Development, College of Saint Elizabeth; Elizabeth Warner, United Way of Northern New Jersey
There are many evidence-based programs that are successful in promoting SEL, but those efforts will not be sustainable without attention to overall school culture and climate, support from school staff, and the wider community. Attendees will learn about three different, yet complementary approaches to ensuring systemic and sustainable change and will leave with tools they can use in their own schools and communities.

Leveraging Diversity in Children’s Literature for Social and Emotional Learning

Facilitator(s): Peg Sawyer, Trainer & Coach, Open Circle; Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, Program Manager, Open Circle
Educators look to children’s literature to serve as both mirrors and windows, providing opportunities for children to see themselves, others, and the world. Yet most of the titles published annually for children do not reflect the diversity and cultural strengths of our students.In this session, participants will explore ways to leverage literature to help our diverse population of children develop self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and positive relationships skills. Participants will receive a list of books, including multicultural titles, that support social and emotional learning.

Measuring SEL Effectiveness: SEL Assessment in Schools at Scale

Facilitator(s): Jennifer Worden, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Transforming Education
What is the role of measurement in supporting educators and education systems in equipping students with the Mindsets, Essential Skills, and Habits (MESH) they need to succeed in college, career, and life? Districts representing over 1 million students total in California and Massachusetts are helping answer this question and may act as proof points of how to foster SEL skill development in the context of vastly different education systems. These education systems are committed to taking action now to improve student outcomes by leading with effective measurement of SEL.

SEL and Positive Behavior Supports: Examples of Braided School-Wide Initiatives

Facilitator(s): Sara Whitcomb, Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Sheera Hefter, Doctoral Candidate
The purpose of this session is to share a data-based decision-making framework and promising case examples of the efficient integration of social-emotional learning and behavioral support systems and practices. Participants will learn concrete strategies for aligning complementary school-wide initiatives, which are all too often implemented in a fragmented and isolated manner, leaving practitioners overwhelmed and frustrated. Presenters will provide key conceptual information, examples of successful application of such efforts, and then will facilitate breakout discussions and action planning.

SEL and School Climate Improvement: Similarities, Differences and Trends

Facilitator(s): Jonathan Cohen, President, National School Climate Center: Educating Minds and Hearts Because the Three Rs’ Are Not Enough; Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University
SEL and school climate improvement efforts are overlapping and complementary trends. After a brief historical overview of the origins and development of these overlapping traditions, we will focus on how they can be mutually supportive in terms of goals, policy reform efforts, measurement systems, improvement processes, and leadership development practices. Differences will be highlighted, particularly as they impact educators’ efforts bring about systemic change.

Using SEL to Promote Resiliency with Children and Families Affected by Trauma

Facilitator(s): Dr. Neena McConnico, PhD, LMHC, Program Director, The Child Witness to Violence Project (CWVP); Charlotte Spinkston, Executive Director, Urban PRIDE
This workshop will discuss the link between SEL and Trauma Informed Practice. Through lecture, small group activities and case examples the presenters will highlight a project focused on implementing trauma-informed practices in classroom settings. This workshop will also focus on these practices in advocacy, training and support work with parents and caregivers of children with disabilities who have experienced trauma. Participants will: (1) increase their understanding of the relationship between SEL and trauma-informed practices and (2) learn strategies to use with children and families.

Opening Ceremony

The Opening Ceremony is to be held on the Grand Staircase prior to the start of the Conference in the Great Hall at 9 AM in the morning.  It will last a half-hour.  The Opening Remarks will be delivered by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and the following people will be attending to support SEL in our schools.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg

Representative Ruth Balser

Representative Carmine Gentile

Representative Alice Peisch

Representative Kay Khan

Senator Sal DiDomenico

Representative Russell Holmes

Senator James Eldridge

Patricia (Patti) Mackin, Chief of Staff to MA Office of Health and Human Services

Andria Amador, President of the MA chapter of the School Psychology Association and Assistant Director, Comprehensive Student Support Services, Boston Public Schools

Angela Cristiani, Political Director, Boston Teachers Union

Janet Anderson, Vice President, Massachusetts Teachers Union

Ayanna Pressley, Boston City Council Member

Josh Zakim, Boston City Council Member

John Connolly, 1647 Families, Former City Councilor, Teacher and Boston Mayoral Candidate

Craig Norberg-Bohn, Men’s Initiative, Jane Doe, Inc. Boston

Carilyn Rains, President-elect of Massachusetts School Nurses Association

Peter Roby, Athletic Director, Northeastern University

Khari Roulhac, Athletic Director, Bunker Hill Community College

Ayele Shakur, Education Chair, NAACP, founder, BuildinBoston.org

Nancy Scannell, Children’s Mental Health Campaign

Sarah Link, United Way of Massachusetts Bay

Dot Lucci, Massachusetts General Hospital “Aspire

Landen Archibald Motyka, Coordinator, MA Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning Youth

Scarlett Lewis, Mother of Jessie Lewis, Jessie Lewis Choose Love Foundation, Newtown CT

Malcolm Astley, Father of Laure Dunne Astley, Wayland MA