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District adds to "social and emotional learning"


CMSD will expand instruction that teaches young children how to control their emotions, show respect, make responsible decisions and build positive relationships.

Schools throughout the District will add the Second Step curriculum for sixth-graders this year and expand it to the seventh and eighth grades over the next two years.

Second Step, created by the Seattle-based Committee for Children, will build on themes emphasized in the PATHS, or Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies, curriculum that is already used in prekindergarten through fifth grade.

District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon refers to Second Step as a “booster shot” for children in the middle grades. Unlike PATHS, Second Step is optional for the schools, but two-thirds of the 70 preK-8 schools have adopted the curriculum.

“We knew we needed it,” said Bill Stencil, a psychologist and content expert in Humanware, CMSD’s “social and emotional learning” program. “Buildings were asking for it.”

Stencil said Second Step is more appropriate for the middle grades. He said students will view videos of bullying and other situations and discuss how to respond with “good SEL skills.”

The District launched the sweeping Humanware program after shootings at the District’s SuccessTech Academy in 2007. A student shot and wounded two classmates and two teachers before killing himself.

Other components include bullying prevention, school-based mental health services, daily class meetings for ninth-graders and a districtwide student advisory council that gives the CEO feedback on issues.

In-school suspension has been replaced by “planning centers,” where students complete academic assignments while also receiving guidance. CMSD also deploys a Rapid Response Team of psychologists, counselors and nurses to defuse potential crises.

In recognition of CMSD’s efforts, Cleveland last year served as the site of an annual conference hosted by PATHS Education Worldwide, a nonprofit that trains teachers in the PATHS curriculum. The annual conference alternates between the United States and Europe.

CMSD also is a member of the Collaborating Districts Initiative, eight large urban districts that share strategies for social and emotional learning.

The other districts are Anchorage, AK; Austin, TX; Chicago; Nashville; Oakland; Sacramento; and Washoe County, NV. The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning brought the group to Cleveland earlier this year for a conference.