New York City Hall Press Office Photo
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza recently announced for the first time in New York City’s history that all students will have access to Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and Restorative Justice (RJ) practices and, when needed, earlier intervention from clinical social workers. The investment is designed to help school communities be more proactive in changing school culture and climate. The Department of Education will provide all elementary schools with access to an SEL curriculum in partnership with National University System’s Sanford Harmony program. It will also build RJ practices into all middle and high schools, providing students with the tools they need to name their emotions, overcome conflicts and repair relationships.
“We’ve heard from students, teachers and parents across our city, and as a result, we’re revolutionizing our school system and giving our kids the social-emotional tools they need to ensure they develop into healthy adults,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I’m proud that New York City is leading the way in our schools, using research-backed methods that encourage the whole growth of every student.”
“To prepare New York City students for the future we must do more to make sure they are able to learn while they are in the classroom. We have a responsibility to make sure our young people have the life skills to navigate their world inside and outside of the classroom and continue developing into healthy adults,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “This new approach will help us educate the whole child and create a more positive school climate with greater supports for our educators.”
“It's common sense: when we keep students in the classroom and help them feel safe and supported in their schools, they will succeed,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “We’re doubling down on an approach that we know works — giving our teachers the resources to support our students’ social-emotional skills and well-being, and, as a result, driving down suspensions and improving outcomes. I thank Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray for their leadership, and I'm excited to get to work on this next step of our children's agenda.”
In collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers, 50 middle schools will receive more intensive programming through the Positive Learning Collaborative model, a restorative approach to changing school climate. This work will be enhanced, thanks to the New York City Council, with a new Thrive initiative of 85 borough-based licensed clinical social workers specifically designed to support teachers and directly help students facing emotional distress from the point of crisis to a handoff to long-term care, if necessary.
SEL has been proven to improve students’ academic performance by prioritizing communication, empathy and problem solving. RJ builds on the SEL continuum by training students to practice their social-emotional learning skills in everyday life both inside and outside the classroom. The DOE will now have an SEL continuum in grades Pre-K-12.
The DOE also announced its revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the NYPD and DOE, updates to the NYPD Patrol Guide that would significantly limit situations where in-school arrests for out-of-school incidents are allowed, and proposed changes to the DOE discipline code to keep suspensions below 20 days in most cases except those that involve serious or violent incidents.
The partnership with Sanford Harmony will provide elementary schools citywide access to an SEL curriculum for the first time. SEL curricula build on successful existing RJ models in Districts 5, 12, 16 and 18 which recognize that students don’t simply learn math and English during their education, but that their time at school shapes how they interact with other people and themselves. Through intra- and interpersonal relationship lessons and activities, SEL helps students develop better control of their feelings and social skills to complement the academic lessons learned in classrooms.
Aspects of SEL are already part of the City’s universal Pre-K programs, where students learn to identify and communicate their emotions and deal with stress. Now, elementary schools will receive training and materials relevant for students at every grade level. Lessons and activities include daily meet-ups for students to engage with each other and a “buddy-up” system for students to learn how to get along with others.
Middle and high schools across the city will reinforce SEL tenets by implementing Restorative Justice practices. RJ practices de-emphasize the reliance on solely traditional punitive discipline. Instead, students are also encouraged to activate SEL skills by focusing on emotion identification, conflict resolution and problem solving. The use of these skills becomes part of a school’s daily practice. Students are trained to become leaders in their own lives and adults are trained in the restorative framework, recognizing that outside factors often have significant impacts on a student’s day-to-day response, and those responses must be addressed through multiple approaches. RJ helps develop the proactive use of SEL to reduce issues of conflict within the school.
Additionally, 50 of the City’s middle schools will take part in Positive Learning Collaborative (PLC) programming, a restorative approach to school climate developed in collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers. All 50 schools will receive training in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention for Schools (TCIS) and additional support in an area of need. A smaller cadre of schools will become partner schools, and in addition to TCIS training will also receive on-site coaching, support to implement community circles and access to a behavior specialist who will guide them in the process. The goal is to help every adult in a PLC school—from teachers to custodians to principals—cultivate strong relationships with students so school communities can short-circuit many problems before they start and prevent others from escalating.
Several additional noteworthy reforms will be enacted as part of the new school climate package, including:
NYPD-DOE MOU: A new NYPD-DOE Memorandum of Understanding governs police engagement in schools following a three-year collaborative process. The MOU clarifies the roles of NYPD and DOE in addressing school misconduct and stresses their joint commitment to ensuring that schools are safe havens for our students.
NYPD Patrol Guide: The Patrol Guide, given to all NYPD patrol officers, significantly limits in-school arrests for low-level offenses and limits allowable circumstances for in-school arrests to felony crimes, sex offenses, crimes where there is an immediate risk of escape or where the perpetrator is in hot pursuit, and similar situations. The guide also reiterates that a principal or similar trusted adult staff member will serve as the in-school student advocate until a parent or guardian arrives.
Discipline Code: Proposed changes to the DOE Discipline Code will keep suspensions below 20 days in most cases except in those that involve serious or violent incidents, including firearm offenses with a state-mandated suspension length. The change will build on existing strategies developed by the DOE’s Division of School Climate and Wellness that have already reduced the average DOE suspension from 21 days to 13 days. DOE will host community engagement forums in all five boroughs beginning in July. DOE will also issue for the first time a comprehensive guide, with training, to ensure that each school has a proper classroom removal process.
85 Licensed Clinical Social Workers: Thanks to the New York City Council, a new Thrive initiative comprised of a unit of 85 licensed clinical social workers will better support students facing crises across the City and reduce the practice of school staff calling emergency medical services. The social workers will be able to provide care in times of immediate emotional distress and help them receive long-term care if necessary.
The Sanford Harmony elementary school program is an evidence-based, nationally recognized curriculum that builds stronger classroom communities through relationship-building lessons and activities. The program will be managed in partnership with National University; to help implement the program here, a new NYC-based team will work closely with the NYC Department of Education and Long Island University while drawing on Sanford Harmony’s national network of trainers and coaches. To date, Sanford Harmony has trained over 8,000 NYC teachers. Sanford Harmony has committed $5.8 million to this expansion.
Districts that have used Sanford Harmony so far have found that students display more empathy and develop stronger relationships with their peers, improving school climate. Explicit SEL enhances student-teacher communication and improves academic achievement.
Additionally, DOE has piloted universal restorative justice programs in all schools in District 18 (which includes Flatbush and Canarsie) since School Year 2015-16. The District has seen double-digit decreases in suspensions during the program. In the first year of the pilot, District 18 saw a 25 percent decrease in suspensions. Last year, it saw another 11 percent decrease. The racial disparity in suspensions has also fallen in the district compared to the citywide ratio. Citywide, black students are 2.6 times as likely to be suspended compared to their peers, but in District 18, they are only 1.2 times as likely. Replicating the model used in District 18 presents an opportunity to respond to similar challenges with both locally and nationally evidence-based practices.
The entire school climate package will roll out over three years, with schools citywide divided into three cohorts and receiving services on a rolling basis.
About National University and Sanford Harmony
The private, nonprofit National University System was established to meet the emerging challenges and demands of education in the 21st century. The affiliates of the San Diego-based System include National University, John F. Kennedy University, City University of Seattle, Northcentral University, and the Division of Pre-College Programs. The System also includes two education-focused initiatives: Workforce Education Solutions and the national Sanford Programs, which are based on the vision of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford: Sanford Harmony and Sanford Inspire, which provide educators with comprehensive lesson plans and activities to support Pre-K-12 student development and success, and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy, which offers educational and training programs for front line nonprofit fundraisers. For more information, visit nusystem.org .