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Westbrook schools featured in national social, emotional, academics report

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Westbrook Public Schools, and its work to support the whole student, is included as an exemplary approach to supporting students’ social, emotional, and academic development in a report by a prestigious national commission.

The Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development’s “From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope” said the nation is at a turning point, understanding that social, emotional, and cognitive development underpins children’s academic learning, according to a press release.


This breakthrough understanding about how people learn is fueling a growing movement to educate children as whole people, with social and emotional as well as academic needs, the report says.


“Westbrook has espoused the integration of multidimensional skill development to optimize learning. We believe that social, emotional and cognitive skills can be taught, that learning happens in the cultivation of positive relationships, and that social, emotional and cognitive development offsets the effects of stress and trauma, as well as adverse childhood experiences,” Superintendent of Schools Patricia A. Ciccone said in a prepared statement.

“In that work, we have seen the increase in academic proficiency and less disciplinary exclusions,” she said.

Ciccone has taken the “unprecedented step” of asking high school students to collect and analyze school and community climate survey data. “Our students are transforming their school and the district, and inspiring others across the state to do the same,” she said.

A priority of Teen Leadership teacher/mentor Chet Bialicki is “to give Westbrook students increasing opportunities to respond to invitations from organizations such as CEA, the Community Coalition on Children, National School Climate Center, Facebook and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to present their leadership in setting a climate conducive to social, emotional and academic development,” he said in the statement.

The report recommends taking these key steps:

Set a clear vision that broadens the definition of student success to prioritize the whole child.

Transform learning settings so they are safe and supportive for all young people.


Change instruction to teach students social, emotional and cognitive skills; and embed these skills in academics and school-wide practices.

Build adult expertise in child development.

Align resources and leverage partners in the community to address the whole child.

Forge closer connections between research and practice to generate useful, actionable information for educators.

Nearly 100 organizations have signed on in support of the report’s conclusions and recommendations, as part of an ever-widening coalition committed to advancing the work, the release said.

For information, visit NationatHope.org.

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