Whole Child Focus Sharpens
Data Analysis, Policy Changes and Investments Expanding Social-Emotional Supports
At the February 1, 2018 Focus on Achievement the Board of Education focused on the Denver Plan 2020 goal of Support for the Whole Child. DPS is leading the nation in its commitment to providing equitable and inclusive environments where we ensure students are Healthy, Supported, Engaged, Challenged, Safe, and Socially and Emotionally Intelligent.
Whole Child Student Survey
The board reviewed data highlights from the 2017 Whole Child Survey (part of the annual spring Student Satisfaction Survey). When asked about the six components noted above, districtwide, students report most favorably (88%) that they are Challenged. Compared with the 2016 survey, scores districtwide remained stable, with 17 schools showing notable gains overall and 28 schools showing notable declines in Whole Child measures. You can see the complete 2017 results here. The 2018 survey will be administered in schools in April.
Sharp Declines in Suspensions Resulting from ECE-3 Discipline Reform
Last school year, the board updated policies JK and JK-R regarding ECE-3 discipline. Tonight, the district reported sharp declines in the number of suspensions in ECE-3 since the policy change — down from 254 to 78 (August through December 2016 compared with 2017). Most striking was a greater than 80% decline in suspensions so far this year for African-American students in these grades.
In order to support schools in implementation of ECE-3 discipline reform, the district held de-escalation trainings for 80 educators and established a district-community advisory board.
Proposal for DPS Therapeutic Day School
The Student Equity & Opportunity department that leads Support for the Whole Child put forth a proposal for developing a DPS therapeutic day school. State funding changes have caused dramatic reductions in therapeutic services available to our students and our ability to best support students in crisis.
Opening a DPS therapeutic day school would provide an individualized, educational and therapeutic environment that would support social-emotional awareness, inspire personal growth and build on students’ strengths in order to empower them for success.
Whole Child Mill Levy Investment
“The board took the leadership several years ago in saying that our students’ social and emotional health is just as important as their academic achievement,” said Superintendent Tom Boasberg. “Our community has strongly supported that, including with passage of mill levy funding for Whole Child supports.”
In November 2016, voters approved a $15 million mill levy investment dedicated to supporting the whole child. These funds are providing school leaders with additional dollars to effectively target the needs of their students by expanding mental health services, evidence-based social-emotional learning curriculum and instruction, and programs focused on building school environments that foster positive social-emotional outcomes. This can include additional staff positions, contracts with partner organizations, training or curricula. The mill levy also provided $2.9 million for the expansion of Summer Academy.
Voices from the Field
The following educators joined the discussion and shared with the board how they are investing their Mill Levy funding in support of the Whole Child:
Doull Elementary School
High Tech Early College
Montclair Elementary School
Carrigan explained how Whole Child mill levy funding and an innovation grant allowed Doull to keep their full time school psychologist, hire a wellness coach, contract with PlayWorks, add two additional days of counseling per week, add two “cool down” rooms for students to de-escalate, and replace detention with yoga. Graeber joked: “We did have a couple of kids who were acting out so they could be referred to yoga, so we had to add a third day for those who wanted to go as a volunteer club activity.”
In addition to hiring additional staff, the panel discussed many tools that have helped them successfully connect with kids in their classrooms — everything from trauma trainings to behavioral health analysis systems.
“As important as those tools are, they’re only as good as the relationships behind them. Our approach is very much about building on the importance of the relationship of teachers as the trusted person in our schools for our students and families,” said Gibbons. “It’s all about the structure in our schools helping teachers prioritize the time they spend making those phone calls home, getting to know their students and understanding their needs.”
Read the full presentation here.