Data from the CDC’s latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the Tennessee Department of Health’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System revealed that large numbers of Tennessee students are have been exposed to adverse life events. We know from the 1995-97 CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study that experiencing severe and/or chronic trauma triggers the “fight, flight, or freeze” instinct in a child, which can actually damage the brain and makes it physiologically impossible to learn or engage at school — impacting everything from academic success and the number of discipline incidents at school to emotional wellness and physical health into adulthood. Consequently, adults who have experienced adverse events during childhood are more likely to lack a high school diploma or stable employment, to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking or drug use, and even to attempt suicide. These risks to health, wellbeing and safety increase in tandem with the number of adverse events an individual has experienced.
The current prevalence of residents with ACE scores greater than zero across Davidson County is estimated to be between 32.5% and 36.9%.
Childhood adversity is typically defined as physical, verbal and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; a family member with mental illness, or who has been incarcerated or is abusing alcohol or other drugs; witnessing a mother being abused; or losing a parent to divorce or separation, per the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACEs Study, but can encompass other traumatic experiences as well. Data has also shown that when students live in poverty, their odds of experiencing trauma and adverse events, as well as their lasting physical and emotional effects, increase.
72% of students in Metro Nashville Public Schools live at or below the poverty line, making this a very critical issue in our district.
But there is hope.
Data has also shown that resilience built through protective factors such as Social Emotional Learning, or SEL, can vastly alter the course of a child’s academic, social, and health outcomes, even after exposure to trauma. SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. A growing body of research clearly demonstrates that support for social and emotional skill development at school, a climate of connectedness in the building, and trauma-informed approaches to teaching and learning are integral to promoting resilience, overall health, and academic success.
In 2011, the Behavioral Health Alignment Team recognized an urgent need to educate teachers and school staff in Social Emotional Learning competencies and practices, in order to create long-term systemic change around positive school climate, stronger support systems for students, improved student health, academic engagement, and overall student success. The A-Team undertook an effort to begin embedding SEL into MNPS and the wider Nashville community by presenting an annual collaborative professional development event called The Social Emotional Learning Conference. The first conference, in July of 2011, brought mental health providers, SEL experts, and other community partners together around a common goal to provide a variety of workshops throughout the day for educators, promoting understanding and awareness of SEL and how it impacts school climate and academic engagement, and also teaching on-the-ground skills that allow teachers to become models of SEL practice for their students.
The 2016 SEL Conference
This year’s conference was held over two days – July 14 and 15, 2016 at Cane Ridge High School in Antioch, Tennessee — and was the sixth installment of this event. The first day opened with Mayor Megan Barry presenting the Jesse Register Excellence in SEL Award to MNPS SEL Director Kyla Krengel and the SEL Community Award to Judge Sheila Calloway followed by a panel of experts on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Keynote speaker Dr. Pedro Noguera of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA kicked of the second day of learning with a talk on equity and excellence. An exhibitor hall was featured where 28 businesses and organizations that support SEL and mental health in Nashville and beyond were on hand to share information about their services and provide freebies. Volunteer presenters from inside and outside Tennessee provided nearly 60 unique workshops during six breakout session slots spread across the two days. Topics included
- exploring ACEs and their effects on school behavior and performance
- the impact of implicit bias on school discipline
- how to embed SEL into Project-Based Learning
- child brain architecture and development
- engaging parents in SEL skills development
- creating culturally responsive learning environments,
- and much, much more.
The first conference served around 150 people and offered 20 workshops and a small student panel. The conference has grown substantially over the years both in size and in popularity. The A-Team has worked to add in new features each year such as:
- national keynote speakers with an expertise in SEL,
- an expanded schedule,
- panel discussion on ACEs,
- engagement from local leaders such as former Mayor Karl Dean and current Mayor Megan Barry,
- presenting of the Excellence in SEL Award and SEL Community Award,
- workshop presenters from other cities, states, and school districts.
The SEL Conference Through The Years -- 2011-2015
Increase Graduation Rates
Increase Children’s Health
[Baseline: 77% in 2015]
[Baseline: 93% in 2015]
While the team narrowly missed its goal, there was a 2.6% increase in twitter activity over 2015.
Facebook “likes” increased 20% since the 2015 event.
The team received 58 workshop responses – just shy of the goal – which is a 7.5% increase over the 2015 conference.
A total 36 of presenters presented at the conference for the first time.
The team received 30 responses – a 25% increase over 2015.
752 educators, administrators, and community members registered for the conference – an increase of 4.4% over 2015.
Alternatives to Violence Project
American Institutes for Research
Austin Peay State Univeristy
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Community Trust
Center For Integrative Learning and Teaching (CILT Nashville)
Center on Great Teachers and Leaders
Children’s Kindness Network
Citizens Commission on Human Rights
Committee for Children
Creswell Middle Prep
Delek Fund for Hope
Eakin Elementary School
Girls On The Run
Growing Sound (a division of Children, Inc.)
John Trotwood Moore Middle School
Kidlink Treatment Services
Education Rights Project of the Public Defender’s Office
Lions Quest Lions Clubs International Foundation
Lipscomb University IDEAL Program
Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee
Mental Health Cooperative
Metro Nashville Juvenile Court
MNPS Encore/Gifted and Talented Education Department
MNPS Family Involvement Specialists
MNPS Psychology Department
MNPS SEL Department
MNPS Support Services Department
Move This World
Nashville Children’s Alliance
Nashville Public Library – Bringing Books to Life
Nashville Public Library – (T.O.T.A.L.)
Pearl-Cohn High School
Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee
Tennessee Department of Education
Tennessee Department of Health
Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network
Tennessee Voices For Children
The Family Center
The Tennessee Credit Union
Touchstone Youth Resource Services, Inc.
TriStar Skyline Madison Campus
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Tennessee’s University-Assisted Community Schools
Vanderbilt Behavioral Health
Vermont Learning Collaborative, Experiential Tools
We Have Such In Common