WCSD PBIS News: Unbroken

December 2020

We are still standing... still holding it together... still getting the work done

As tired as we all are, there is much to be proud of as we reflect on the past 10 months of crisis teaching.

There is also much to be relieved about - the data suggests that our multifaceted efforts have successfully mitigated our worst fears about the negative impact on our students.

  • studies show far less academic skill loss than we all feared
  • suicide threats by students have been stable or declined
  • the majority of students are attending, engaged, and report liking school
  • the district mobilized to address equity concerns by investing in technology tools and access , as well as RTI academic support

Let's release a deep sigh of relief for reaching this point!

Let's also take a moment to reflect on all the efforts that contributed to holding our schools - and each other - together.

Now, let's expand our focus to consider - with great intention - what we need to do to keep ourselves whole, to sustain our own and each other's energy and wellness.

In this edition of the newsletter...

  • Results of the recent School Climate Survey in Whittier City
  • Impact of the Student Wellness Program - visible results from our commitment to a healthy, positive, and caring school environment
  • Recent reports analyzing national academic data on pandemic-related learning losses, and ideas about remediation
  • Resources for staff resilience
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Muti-Tiered Systems of Support for Social Emotional Learning

It takes ALL of us. We have layers of teams that leaned on the systems and procedures we created when we were calm and thoughtful - and the systems held.

Systems bring order to chaos. Kudos to the many teams in every department and school that worked together to keep our entire school community safe, fed, engaged, educated, and connected!

Whether behind the scenes or on the front lines, together we have pulled off an extraordinarily complex feat, and we are - mostly? - still standing. A little tattered and battered and duct-taped together, but standing... mostly.

WCSD Student Wellness Data

2020 School Climate Survey: 73% of all 3rd-8th Grade Students (total = 2,771)

This is the fifth year that our 3rd through 8th grade students participated in the anonymous School Climate Survey. It is very brief, with questions about our core PBIS structures and their impact on school climate - how school feels to students. Their positive responses reflect the deep commitment and thoughtful work of each school's PBIS Leadership Team to adapt their systems for virtual classrooms:

  • Behavior expectations matrices for distance learning
  • PBIS assemblies and recognition online
  • Student of the month recognition online
  • Community building activities for students, staff, & families

Notice increases in students reporting that they Like and Feel Safe at school, feel Respected by teachers and peers, good behavior is noticed, and student behavior allows teachers to teach. We do see the negative impact of distance learning on how well students feel they are doing in school, which is an ongoing topic of discussion among teachers.

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Data on Suicide Risk Assessments

The pandemic and resultant quarantines have raised alarm bells about a tsunami of mental health crisis. It has inspired us - as a society - to tap into our inner wells of compassion and grace towards everyone around us, especially our students.

The data is starting to come in and suggests that those efforts have been effective. The Los Angeles Times recently reported (Dec 12, 2020) that, while drug- and alcohol-related accidental deaths are on track to rise about 15% over 2019 (continuing a long standing trend), and homicides about 29%, suicides have declined 5%, according to the coroner’s office.

Our own WCSD data also reflect a decline in suicide risk assessments, illustrated in the graph below. This continues the downward trend in risk assessments since we expanded our Wellness Team staff and built our universal screening and Tier 2 systems, as well as expanded suicide awareness training and Second Step lessons.

The second graph reflects that it is our middle school students who were struggling the most at the start of the school year, but they seem to have found their rhythm, with the help of their teachers, parents, and support staff.

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What The Data Suggest About "COVID Learning Loss"

The pandemic disrupted testing as well as schooling, so there isn't a lot of data to provide a definitive answer to our worries about the impact on learning. Plus - the disruption isn't over. A few recent reports provide a glimmer of good news about reading, and some warnings about math skills.

NWEA researchers compared the results of more than 4.4 million students in grades 3-8 tested this fall to their peers tested in fall 2019. They found no difference in reading gains, but on average a negative 5 to 10 percentile-point difference in math, with Black and Hispanic students in upper elementary seeing the worst learning losses. Tech and connectivity issues increased the losses and reflect the equity gap.

The disruption caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita also had a more negative impact on math skills than reading. Math is more deeply affected by anxiety and trauma than reading, and recovering those math skills will take more than just a single session of summer school.

Lessons from Katrina:

  • On average, it took two years of individualized attention to resolve the largest learning losses. For some students, it took longer.
  • Students benefited from exposure to grade level curriculum, combined with added layers of targeted support
  • addressing trauma with social emotional learning improved outcomes

Read more:

• Kids Are Behind in Math Because of COVID-19. Here’s What Research Says Could Help

By Stephen Sawchuk & Sarah D. Sparks — December 02, 2020

• Learning Loss Is Everywhere. But How Do the Reports Compare?

By Frank Catalano (Columnist) Dec 14, 2020

• NWEA Research brief: Learning during COVID-19: Initial findings on students’ reading and math achievement and growth. By: Megan Kuhfeld, Beth Tarasawa, Angela Johnson, Erik Ruzek, Karyn Lewis November 2020

• “What Post-Katrina New Orleans Can Teach Schools About Addressing COVID Learning Losses." (April 20, 2020), By Paul Hill, for the Center for Reinventing Public Education:

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What you do is making a difference!

Small kindnesses have big ripple effects: The power of words

Talking to a computer screen of black zoom tiles instead of student faces can feel like an effort in futility, like teaching into the void. Turns out, your efforts to connect DO matter to students, as this Georgia Tech professor discovered when she read her students' evaluations. Although you might not see their faces, they see yours, and those messages of encouragement and good wishes you are sending out into space can feel like a lifeline.

"I Didn't Think I Connected With My Students Online. They Disagreed." By Maureen Downey, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (December 1, 2020)

Read about the impact of one fan's comment on Frank Sinatra, or watch the interview in the video, below.

"Frank Sinatra Nearly Walked Away From Performing After Flubbing a Song — Then a Fan Intervened," 12/11/2020 by Ryan Parker for The Hollywood Reporter.

The best Frank Sinatra story you will ever hear.
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If the kids are doing better than we thought, can we start taking better care of ourselves, now?

Winter Break Reset!

First, rest.

Replenish your physical and emotional reserves with all the things that nourish your soul. Time in nature, gratitude practice, time with friends and family, creativity, laughter, and exercise are all great ways to increase our well-being.

Reflect on your personal wellness plan:

  • What has worked well? Remember to thank yourself.
  • What needs adjustment?
  • What do you need to add to help you sustain your plan?

Wishing you healing and renewal of spirit.

Words of wisdom from children's literature...

The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries an alternate ending to the Giving Tree
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Previous WCSD PBIS Newsletters

September, 2020: Healing Ourselves


Find resources for staff resilience, links to Second Step resources, and access to the archive of previous WCSD PBIS Newsletters.

December, 2020: Arts Integration = Joy & Learning!


New resources for braiding arts and social emotional learning through the curriculum, from our LACOE friends at the Center for Distance and Online Learning (CDOL), as well as a nostalgic look back at Whittier City's TEAL-SEL Mini-Academy in January.

August, 2020: WCSD PBIS: Anchor in the Storm!


The California PBIS Coalition again recognized Whittier City Schools, this time with its "Community Cares" award! See the creative ways that our schools came together during the crisis.

WCSD PBIS & MTSS Google Site

Find documents and information for all things PBIS and RTI Academics in Whittier City SD.

WCSD PBIS: Positive School Climate for Student Success