Austin ISD Uses Assessment to Judge the Success of SEL ProgramsInspire SEL Assessment in Action
Austin Independent School District (AISD) has been using student and teacher report measures for student SEL since 2014-15. Each school administers an annual climate survey to 3rd-11th grade students, which contains items specifically about students’ SE competence. Teacher of preK-6th grade students also complete a report card on students’ personal development skills every nine weeks (staff also complete a staff climate survey and answer question about their own SEL skills).
Why did you choose the the measure?
Our district began to incorporate social emotional learning (SEL) during the 2011-12 school year with the vision of full implementation by 2015-16. The student reports and teacher report cards of student SEL skills allow SEL program staff, AISD’s school board and other decision-makers to see whether SEL activities are working at a school; for example, whether they are building students’ SEL skills, improving academic achievement, and increasing attendance. SEL programming varies according to each school’s culture and climate. We did not want to report data by school, lest we inadvertently paint a picture of a “good” or “bad” school. We needed to present information on groups of schools (i.e. all elementary schools and all middle/high schools combined).
How do you use the measure?
Our schools use the data from this measure:
- To show if schools are effectively building student SEL skills. AISD uses a holistic approach to evaluation that does not focus on specific SEL programs or curricula, but rather how well SEL activities are embedded into the culture and climate of schools.
- To show how well schools are implementing SEL programs and activities.
- To show how SEL skills are linked to improvements in school climate.
- To show how SEL skills connect to academic achievement. For example, we look at whether schools with SEL scores in the top quartile perform differently in terms of academics than schools with scores in the bottom quartile.
- To show the importance of implementing SEL with fidelity and experience implementing SEL. We want to know if implementation fidelity matters more or less than longevity in terms of school performance.
AISD produces several reports per year, including:
- A longitudinal report examining if program fidelity or longevity in SEL contributes more to outcomes of interest (i.e., students’ ratings of climate and their SEL skills, teachers’ ratings of climate, attendance, discipline, etc.).
- Formative reports analyzing specific data, new program elements, or other outcome data of interest to program staff.
AISD also shares these results through presentations and communications with district-level administrators, at SEL meetings in the district, with current and potential external funders, at academic conferences, and with others in the field.
What additional insights would you share with others considering using a measure to evaluate the effects of programs and practices on SE competencies?
We see SEL as the long game. We support schools that feel they don’t have time for SEL and need to focus on academics. The evaluation questions we ask are driven by an evaluation plan we create at the beginning of each school year. We work with the office of innovation and development and others to make sure we are asking questions and gathering data that fit everyone’s needs.
Improving school climate is an outcome we hope to see improved by SEL. Students who develop these SEL skills are more likely to contribute to a positive school climate.
Every new teacher receives professional development on SEL. As schools were brought into SEL, whole school staff was trained.
Contact: Lindsay M. Lamb, Ph.D. Program Evaluation Coordinator
Department of Research & Evaluation Austin Independent School District