Student Supports and Professional Learning



The district is aware that many students will experience levels of anxiety and social emotional distress associated with COVID-19 and their return to school. We also recognize that racial inequity and trauma impact our students in numerous ways. In order to support all of our students, we will provide a comprehensive system of support that augments both the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program and the Wellness program that are critical components of our existing curriculum for Pre-K to 12. We will provide professional development and training on these topics to our staff with dedicated professional development days on the school calendar.

Student Safety, Wellness, and Social Emotional Supports

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): The district will continue to provide students with a range of learning opportunities, supports, and interventions with a variety of SEL approaches already embedded into school practices, including:

Free-standing lessons designed to enhance students’ social and emotional competence explicitly

Teaching practices such as cooperative learning and project-based learning which promote SEL

Integration of SEL within academic curriculum such as language arts, math, social studies, or health

Organizational strategies that promote SEL as a school-wide initiative and create a climate and culture conducive to learning

Wellness Program: In addition to the standard SEL program, our Physical Education and Wellness curriculum will continue to emphasize students’ responsibility for their own health and well-being based on a six-dimensional wellness model (social, emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, and occupational/leisure). Throughout their K-12 experience, students develop skills and knowledge that will help them to nurture and care for themselve in each of these domains. 

Student Assessment Tool: We developed an assessment tool to administer this fall to provide feedback on social emotional functioning and the concerns of students at the building and district level. We will use this information to plan school and district responses based on how our students are doing. We will also use the data to provide a multi-tiered system of support with interventions for students who report higher levels of anxiety and fear, racial inequity, and racial trauma. The model is as follows:

Tier 1 Support: The student assessment results will guide the development of the social emotional supports and guidance that will be made available to all students in the Needham Public Schools. These will be classroom-based lessons designed to provide skills to lessen each student’s anxiety about COVID-19 and their return to school, and to provide reinforcement of measures to keep students and adults safe.

Tier 2 Support: Students who demonstrate higher levels of anxiety or social emotional distress related to COVID-19 and the return to school will receive short-term individual and group counseling from school-based guidance staff. Staff will contact families and offer guidance in order to further support their child at home.

Tier 3 Support: Students who demonstrate consistent high levels of anxiety or social emotional distress even after Tier 2 support receive a higher level of one-on-one counseling services. This will include support for parents/guardians and potential involvement of the students’ medical caregivers for further assessment and intervention.

This level of support for our students will continue during the 2020-2021 school year with the assessment tool being used to understand how students’ social emotional and mental health needs are progressing.

Student Engagement: We will identify and support students not effectively engaged in remote learning. This process for addressing chronic absenteeism developed at the high school is the model for the district. It is focused on support, not compliance and aligns with the three-tier supports described above.

Equity in the Needham Public Schools:  
The Needham Public Schools is deeply committed to providing an equitable and inclusive learning environment for each student.  Further, we strive to be actively anti-racist and ensure a culture of respect for all human differences.  To learn more about our efforts: Equity in the Needham Public Schools

Courageous Conversations on Race (CCOR): We continue to focus on providing a safer and healthier environment for all our students, so that our students of color have equal social and academic experiences in our schools. School staff, middle school and high school students, METCO, the Needham Human Rights Committee, and other community-based organizations worked together last year to establish a proven protocol, Courageous Conversations, that engages students and decreases micro and macro aggressions. With a grant from MetroWest Health Foundation, we will continue to engage with more students and assess the change in racial climate, as well as the decrease in distress associated with racial discrimination. To learn more about CCOR, see a recent School Committee presentation from students and staff: Courageous Conversations on Race: Student Presentation 3/10/20

Professional Development 

Trauma-Sensitive Training and Consultation: Riverside Community Care Trauma Center will provide school staff with a two-hour training on the physiological/emotional and behavioral response to trauma related to COVID-19 and racial inequity. Our staff will learn how to create a classroom environment that is trauma sensitive and supportive, so that they can address our students’ anxieties and fears. The training also will focus on teacher response to their own anxiety and the measures needed to lessen the fear of virus transmission. After the training, the Riverside Community Cares Trauma Center will provide monthly consultation with building leaders to address emerging issues and support planning to refine our classroom and building-based support for students and teachers.

Planning and Professional Learning Opportunities: Over the summer and into the start of the new school year, professional learning has been geared towards online teaching, deepening teachers’ inclusive and culturally responsive teaching practices, and expanding their skills and knowledge of project-based learning, all while building their understanding of trauma-informed practices. We have directed curriculum work toward the goal of creating a roadmap for teaching and learning that allows us to teach all students in a shifting context that includes remote learning, in-school sessions, and our hybrid model. 

School Calendar with Professional Development Days: The Superintendent proposed to the School Committee an adjustment to the 2020-2021 school calendar with the start of school on Monday, September 14th. Under the revised calendar, all staff will return on August 31st (as originally proposed); from that time until September 14th, staff will plan and prepare for a safe reopening of school. Additional calendar features include:

a 171-day student calendar that designates in-person weeks for both Blue and Gold Cohorts

-  t
otal of 12 days for Staff Professional Development (PD)/Training, including an additional two undetermined and presently unscheduled Staff Professional Development days to be used as necessary to plan and prepare in response to any changing circumstances due to the health emergency

full two week December vacation

 inclement weather days that (likely) become remote learning days

last day of school is planned for June 18

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