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Tucson Schools to Pilot Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum

January 15, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) will pilot a social-emotional learning (SEL) supplemental curriculum at 19 schools this coming spring. TUSD will rely on Character Strong’s SEL supplemental curriculum. 

The following make up the tentative list of schools incorporating the pilot supplemental curriculum, according to TUSD spokeswoman Leslie Lenhart.

  • Elementary: Wheeler, Dunham, Collier, Robison, Grijalva, Erickson, Hudlow, Mission View, Cavett, Van Buskirk, and Ochoa
  • K8: Roskruge, Borman, and Robins
  • Middle: Alice Vail, Valencia, and Utterback
  • High School: Cholla and Santa Rita

Five schools already implemented the supplemental curriculum: Peter Howell Elementary School, Miles Exploratory Learning Center (K-8), Lineweaver Elementary School, Borton Magnet School (elementary), and Sam Hughes Elementary School. According to Lenhart, these five schools will serve in an advisory capacity for the pilot program.

SEL incorporates a variety of controversial teaching approaches, such as Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE), Critical Race Theory (CRT), and Culturally Responsive Education (CRE).

In a slideshow presentation discussing adoption of SEL curriculum, TUSD claimed that SEL cultivated “mindsets, skills, attitudes, and feelings” that set up students for success. The board also described SEL as a necessary precondition for education.

“In essence, SEL focuses on students’ fundamental needs for motivation, social connectedness, and self-regulation as preconditions for learning,” read the agenda item.

SEL promotes five competency areas: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. The three functions of the TUSD SEL curriculum would focus on prevention and intervention using standards offered by Collaborative Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL): an organization that helped mainstream SEL, a budding theory at the time. 

During the same meeting, the board approved spending $26,325 in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds on SEL professional development. The funds go toward training teachers, staff, and administration in trauma informed or culturally responsive care, de-escalation strategies, interventions, trauma, and resiliency. 

TUSD has followed state precedent. In December, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) claimed that SEL was the key to solving the mental health decline in school-aged children. ADE based their claim on an advisory published by Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

Governor Doug Ducey has acted in support of SEL adoption as well. Last August, AZ Free News reported that $1.6 out of $65 million in learning funds would go toward SEL programming. Then in September, AZ Free News discovered that Secretary of State Katie Hobbs nominated an elementary school teacher for her SEL implementation and activism.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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