LIVINGSTON, NJ — Dr. Mathew Block, Superintendent of Livingston Public Schools (LPS), recently provided a mid-year update on the district’s four goals for the 2020-2021 academic year, including one that seeks to provide positive social and emotional support for students by incorporating effective instructional methodologies in the classroom.
Although LPS has always been dedicated to social and emotional learning (SEL), Block reiterated that this particular goal specifically aims to better infuse SEL skills into instruction throughout the district and to also increase empathy and sensitivity among staff and students.
Utilizing the district’s state-approved teacher evaluation model—the Danielson method—teachers are observed in their classrooms based upon set rubrics that include “knowing and valuing [their] students; building responsive learning environments; and engaging students in learning.”
Through Livingston University, an in-house bank of extensive course offerings, as well as ongoing professional development being administered through departmental meetings, SEL resources and tools are made available to all teachers, counselors, supervisors and principals at LPS.
According to the superintendent, departmental and building meetings also incorporate cross-departmental meetings in addition to team and grade-level meetings for professional development. Examples of action items to meet the goal include faculty book studies and formal professional development from administrators and supervisors to the teaching staff.
Another initiative to solicit input from the students is a school counselor survey that will be distributed to all LPS students in grades three through 12 in an attempt to monitor their self-reported social and emotional wellness. According to Block, the results of this survey will guide future programming and help implement interventions.
Block referenced an example of a practical application of a seventh-grade science teacher who has brought SEL into the general classroom by providing daily “attendance checks” asking students questions related to “self-regulation, decision-making, social connectedness and learning attitudes.” The teacher the reviewed the results submitted in order to determine each student’s “readiness for learning that day.”
According to Block, having students reflect on their own readiness for the day provides an opportunity for their personal growth as they routinely assess their own self-awareness.
The LPS district consistently analyzes its SEL efforts through advisory lesson formative assessments in addition to teacher-gathered formative assessments. Collecting anecdotal information through conversations with teachers, school counselors, CST members and administrators provides feedback that confirms the extent to which teachers are infusing SEL instruction into the classroom, according to Block.
Additionally, information regarding SEL initiatives is regularly exchanged with families through building-based SEL sessions and continued dialogue between building-based Home-School Associations. Parent Academy sessions on SEL have been scheduled via Zoom, and screencasts about SEL have been posted on the district’s website as well.
Reiterating that this is one of three district goals for the 2020-2021 school year that are a continuation of prior areas of focus, Block noted that the district believes the consistency of goals provides for “deeper impact and clear direction” and that “real change happens over a long period of time.”
Additional areas of focus for the current academic year include the following:
1. Review and refine strategies to enhance instruction and student learning outcomes in Elementary and Middle School Mathematics, grades K-8;
2. Utilize instructional technology to deliver effective in-person, hybrid or remote-learning opportunities to advance student growth and achievement in all areas.
3. Improve the culture and community at LPS by enhancing inclusiveness, cultural awareness, anti-racism and acceptance of individual differences through mandated curricular programing, extracurricular programming and district operations.
During his recent report, Block incorporated action steps, intended outcomes, updates and plans moving forward for each of these goals. He also reiterated that although a certain area was not specifically defined as a district goal this year does not preclude it from being addressed.
As he summarized his mid-year update on planned initiatives, Block noted that the district is seeking new information on school climate through community outreach. He explained that one-on-one meetings and observations with teachers will allow administrators to gather information and feedback on the impact of these goals on classroom practices.
Click on the headlines below to read Block’s mid-year update on the district’s 2020-2021 initiatives:
Efforts to Improve Remote and Hybrid Instruction Continue at Livingston Schools
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