SEL. Trauma. Anti-racism. These ideas have become trending topics as a direct result of our city coping with two concurrent crises: the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing awareness of police brutality toward Black people. Both illuminate how years of institutionalized racism through segregation and racist policies continue to disproportionately impact our Black and Latinx students.
Chicago students have experienced new traumas, but the sad reality is that educators have seen inequities, especially along racial lines, play out in our classrooms and districts for years. For so many of our most vulnerable students, the trauma they are experiencing is twofold: the hyper-recent trauma from this past year has only compounded the intergenerational trauma these students have inherited and have lived with their entire lives. Before learning can occur, their social and emotional well-being must become a daily commitment and renewed through an anti-racist lens, otherwise, we run the risk of continuing to traumatize our students.
We need to move from hashtags to reality: our students need action and we need the resources to make that happen. We must change our curriculum, pedagogy, mindsets, and policies to reflect our values and restore our school communities.
- Chicago Public Schools must allocate and protect funding to maintain current essential student and teacher support positions (e.g. social workers, counselors, restorative practices coordinators, etc) for all schools in need (“need” as defined through a public hardship index) in order to ensure sustained healing-centered services for all school communities by December 2020.
The Illinois State Board of Education must create an incentivized micro-credentialing pathway, utilizing outside organizations, that trains current educators into the role of an SEL Specialist, who will aid staff in ongoing SEL assessment, support, and growth by the 2021-2022 school year.
To assess effectiveness before bringing to scale, the Office of Social and Emotional Learning in Chicago Public Schools must implement a student SEL skills inventory based on the CASEL Five Competencies, piloted at one high school and three elementary schools per network by the 2021-2022 school year. Actionable data from this pilot at the school, network, and district level can then be used to determine necessary and targeted SEL supports.
By the 2022-2023 school year, Chicago Public Schools must adjust the districtwide Continuous Improvement Work Plan (CIWP) requirements to create one additional mandatory District Priority Area focused on anti-racism and reducing bias, by utilizing existing, relevant data for schools to identify and create targeted goals.
In order to dismantle a systemically racist education system that has inflicted and exacerbated trauma on our students, Chicago Public Schools must provide mandatory ongoing training for all school personnel to build competencies in anti-racism, implicit bias, healing-centered practices, and culturally sustaining pedagogy starting in the 2020-2021 school year, including but not limited to coaching, feedback (both formative and evaluative), and educator-led collaboration.
About the Teacher Action Team
Thank you to the 150+ educators and the expert stakeholders who shared their experiences and opinions through more than 35 focus groups and conversations to help shape the issues and recommendations outlined in this memo.
The Chicago Teacher Action Team, composed of twelve educators and three teacher captains leading the work, spent an intensive two months researching and discussing the topics of social and emotional learning (SEL), trauma, and anti-racism.