TPS, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation to pilot expanded social, emotional learning with support from Wallace Foundation grant

Part of a national effort to help children in six communities gain greater opportunities for social and emotional learning and to understand how schools and out-of-school-time providers can work together to align, improve those opportunities

7/24/2017 | TACOMA, Washington

Photo (Top): Whole Child Art Night at Edison Elementary School last school year showcased student artwork depicting their interpretations of the social emotion learning strategies used at the school. 

Tacoma Public Schools and Greater Tacoma Community Foundation (GTCF) will develop a pilot program in collaboration with after-school programs to expand social and emotional learning. Through The Wallace Foundation's national, four-year Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, they will focus on helping elementary school children in Tacoma, both during and after school, to develop positive social and emotional skills, such as self-control, persistence, teamwork and goal-setting, which are linked to success in school, career and life.

The Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative supports school districts and afterschool organizations in six communities around the country, including Boston, Dallas and Tulsa, Okla., that have previously decided to include social and emotional learning in their services to children. Programs will be provided to roughly 15,000 children in kindergarten through fifth grade through a phased approach involving up to seven pilot schools in each city.

At the same time, RAND Corporation will conduct independent research on the effort to understand benefits for children – and what it takes to generate them – as well as barriers in the way. This reflects Wallace's dual goals of creating direct benefits for participating communities, as well as generating credible lessons for the field that can improve practice broadly.

Implementation grants for the initiative are contingent on the successful negotiation of grant agreements this summer. In addition, Tacoma Public Schools and GTCF will also receive other non-monetary support, such as inclusion in a professional learning community, regular convenings with other cities in the initiative, access to a continuous improvement system, communications counsel and other technical assistance.

Carla Santorno, Superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools, says, "In 2012, our school board made a bold decision to make Social Emotional Learning a priority for our district through the Tacoma Whole Child Initiative—a 10-year partnership with the University of Washington Tacoma. Through that initiative, we have built a solid foundation in our city to ensure children are safe, healthy, supported, engaged and challenged in school. This grant will help us join with more partners to expand, accelerate and deepen our city-wide work to ensure that we educate the whole child not just while they're in school but throughout their daily lives at home and in the community. We are thrilled to further align with our partners and learn with our colleagues from around the nation thanks to the foresight and funding from The Wallace Foundation."

Gina Anstey, Vice President of Programs & Initiatives, says that for GTCF, "It is exciting to be able to weave together the Tacoma Whole Child and Expanded Learning Opportunities through social emotional learning. This opportunity comes after six years of engaging with Pierce County youth providers on the Program Quality Initiative, which helped establish shared goals and standards for participating youth after-school programs. We look forward to continuing to foster community impact through collaborative relationships as we build this pilot program. GTCF is committed to connecting with, investing in, and strengthening our community."

A growing body of research, including the Wallace-commissioned University of Chicago study Foundations for Young Adult Success, has linked social and emotional learning – which is also known by terms including non-cognitive skills, inter-/intrapersonal skills, soft skills and character development – to success in school, career and life. However, it is not yet known how school and afterschool experiences can be strengthened, aligned and delivered in real-world, urban settings to help children develop these skills. The new initiative will explore how this kind of cross-sector alignment may benefit children in participating communities and ultimately lead to knowledge that can be applied to the broader field.

 "We're very excited to announce the selection of the implementation grantee pairs, all of which worked incredibly hard during the planning phase," said Gigi Antoni, the director of learning and enrichment at The Wallace Foundation. "These entities have demonstrated the potential to work collaboratively and have created thoughtful, strategic plans intended to achieve real benefits for students. We're looking forward to following their efforts and to sharing what we learn with educators and afterschool providers nationwide."

During the planning-grant period, which began last fall, Tacoma Public Schools and GTCF, in collaboration with School's Out Washington, Foundation for Tacoma Students, and University of Washington-Tacoma, developed a plan to test and learn how to implement SEL in their communities using strategies such as providing professional development, implementing SEL programs and practices within a group of pilot schools, supporting continuous improvement, establishing policies and guidelines to support SEL, and communicating with and engaging stakeholders. They received technical assistance and guidance from national experts affiliated with the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, the Forum for Youth Investment and the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

The new initiative builds on The Wallace Foundation's years of work in youth development, including a dozen-year effort to encourage citywide coordination for afterschool that yielded more than 40 publications and found, according to a study by RAND, "that organizations across cities could work together toward increasing access, quality, data-based decision making and sustainability."

 

About Greater Tacoma Community Foundation

Since 1981, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation (GTCF) has helped build a thriving and vibrant Pierce County by connecting donors, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and members of the community with causes and actions that have a positive impact. Through strategic investments in the community, GTCF aims to support the region in realizing its full potential. As a nationally accredited nonprofit organization, GTCF supports generosity across generations within Pierce County.