Social Skills Help Austin Students Overcome the Odds

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AUSTIN, Texas, March 26, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Austin Independent School District (AISD) discovered something a few years ago that many people are just realizing: Teaching social-emotional skills can help their schools become better places and their students become better learners. AISD's dedication to social-emotional learning (SEL) has been documented in a short film, released today.

The film, titled Austin ISD: A District Embracing SEL, was produced by Seattle nonprofit Committee for Children and tells the story of AISD's five-year initiative to implement social-emotional learning—including Committee for Children's research-based Second Step program—in every school. The documentary also shows the positive results AISD is already seeing from the initiative.

AISD is one of several U.S. school districts selected to be part of the Collaborating District Initiative, which allows them to receive specialized support for implementing SEL programs from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a national organization focused on SEL, with funding from the NoVo Foundation.

"Austin ISD has been very pleased with the Second Step program as part of our SEL initiative, and making this video highlighted for us the difference we are making in our students' lives," says Sherrie Raven, Director of Social and Emotional Learning at AISD.

Joan Cole Duffell, executive director at Committee for Children, says, "We're elated to see such high quality Second Step implementation in Austin ISD. The teachers' and students' enthusiasm for building a healthy culture throughout these schools and the positive results they're seeing come as a result of Austin's district and school leaders' thoughtful and inclusive planning process as they have rolled out this program. Every educator knows that the best-designed curriculum is still only as effective as the people teaching it. We could not be more pleased with the quality of teaching and the engagement of students who are learning lifelong lessons in SEL from the Second Step program."

Both research and conventional wisdom are showing that SEL instruction supports academic achievement. When children have the skills to listen, calm down, empathize with others, and solve problems, they can focus more on their studies—in fact, a recent CASEL study showed that students who receive SEL instruction improved an average of 11 percentile points on standardized achievement tests.

Or, as Cunningham Elementary School Principal Amy Lloyd puts it, "If I were speaking to other principals about SEL, I would say, 'Run toward it as fast as you can. It's critical.'"

About Committee for Children

Seattle-based nonprofit Committee for Children's research-based educational programs teach social-emotional skills to prevent bullying, violence, and abuse and improve academics. Their curricula are used in over 25,000 schools across the United States and around the world. To learn more, go to

A photo accompanying this release is available at:

CONTACT: Allison Wedell Schumacher PR and Communications Manager Committee for Children 206-438-6432 (o) 206-778-2537 (c)

Source: Committee for Children