Wilson cuts social-emotional learning class

Joanna Chait

Wilson did not renew the social-emotional learning (SEL) class, for this school year. The removal is a reflection of shifting priorities in DCPS.

Last year, Wilson introduced the SEL class and shorter social-emotional programs such as the one-day “digital zombie” lesson following prompting from Central Office. The course was cut because Chancellor Wilson, who had been the primary advocate of social-emotional learning classes in DCPS, resigned.

Part of the Capital Commitment plan DCPS instituted under Chancellor Wilson includes “embed[ing] social-emotional in our classrooms and culture.” DCPS touted their pioneering of social-emotional learning classes in school calendars and public statements. Students around the District, such as Alice Deal Middle School, take a social-emotional learning class almost every day.

Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn, who was appointed after Chancellor Wilson’s resignation, said that while he thought social-emotional learning and mental health programs were critical to students’ academic development, he did not believe the information should be taught in specific classes. “My experience with this is that it’s actually often better if you don’t have separate classes that are focused on social and emotional learning but rather that you have all of the adults in the building trained in the kinds of interventions and behaviors that will actually support social-emotional development,” Kihn said.

The aim of the course was to provide students with skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. In the class, students learned skills like how to give someone a handshake, and how to look people in the eye when talking to them. Students also worked on test-taking strategies and quality notetaking. The course was taught by Evans and fellow Academy of Finance teacher Dee Ward.

The curriculum for the class was bought by DCPS from a program named “School Connect.” The program offers lesson plans to teach SEL to high schoolers and middle schoolers, but was not repurchased this school year.

Evans believed that the program gave students exposure to skills they wouldn’t have otherwise learned outside the classroom. “It was a success, and I really liked it,” says Evans.

Some students, however, thought the class was not helpful. “It was mostly just stuff I already knew,” said sophomore Maddie Conway. Conway believed that the class was not very productive and taught very basic social skills that only benefit students of younger age. Sophomore Liana Johnson agreed, “It was definitely a waste of time.”