The Blog-Year in Review: Politics and the Pandemic, SEL and MTSS, Race and Disproportionality

The Blog-Year in Review: Politics and the Pandemic, SEL and MTSS, Race and Disproportionality

Learning from the Past to Improve Student Outcomes in the Future

Dear Colleagues,


   Some unrealistically began 2021 with the hope that the “new normal” would quickly fade to our “old routines.”

   Unfortunately, this was simply not going to happen.

   Just six days into 2021, we realized that our political system was still so polarized that it not only nearly disintegrated before our very eyes, but we were told (by some) not to believe our eyes after witnessing the events.

   Just six weeks into the miraculous development of multiple COVID-19 vaccines, many students across the country continued their educations virtually, the schools that were open were periodically besieged by virus outbreaks and shut-downs, and the debate over masks expanded to debates over shots.

   Just six months in, as Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who killed George Floyd was sentenced to 22+ years in prison, state legislatures, school boards, and parents in states nationwide misrepresented Critical Race Theory. . . using it to suppress or eliminate open and honest classroom discussions on race, culture, and individual differences.

   And now, after largely reopening for the 2021 to 2022 academic year, schools are struggling to address students’ pre-Pandemic and current-Pandemic academic and social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs.

   But unfortunately—in the name of SEL, Multi-Tiered Services, Trauma-Informed Care, and Restorative Practices—they are choosing programs (a) that have not been adequately field-tested; (b) that are not valid, but still marketed; (c) that are sucking up money, time, motivation, and resources; and (d) that are destined to widen already-existing student gaps due to their ineffectiveness.

   Yes. . . it’s been quite the year for education.

   And for those of us who are actually in the schools—despite the reflections above—one must be amazed at the dedication of the teachers, support staff, related service professionals, administrators, and others who are there.

   Often ignoring their own challenges and needs, these heroes have focused on their students. . . working as hard as they can to help them to learn, to feel safe and supported, and to recover from the past two years so that they can maximize the current one.

   And it is in this spirit that I do what I do.

   My goal in writing these Blogs is not to criticize, but to critique—using research that informs sound practice. . . not to disparage others’ hard work, but to discuss the effective, field-proven practices that will make our collective hard work pay off. . . not to selectively avoid controversy, but to be honest about the good and the bad—while being real, realistic, and respectful.

_ _ _ _ _

   In today’s Blog, I am going to let the past create a path for the future.

   I have taken the 23 Blogs that I have written this year, and organized them into four thematic clusters.

   I am not going to add any narrative to these clusters, because I believe that each Blog’s title effectively communicates its focus and content.

   If you are interested in (re)reading a specific Blog—or a series or cluster of Blogs—go for it! Take control of the past in order to inform and plan for your future!

   If you just want to take a break from your professional life for the next week or two (and return to these Blogs in January). . . I completely understand!

   Relax. . . enjoy. . . unwind. . . and recuperate (either way).

   The four themes are:

  • Politics, the Common Good, and How the Past can Inform the Present
  • Meeting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Needs with Good Science and Effective Practices
  • Implementing Effective Multi-Tiered Solutions to Pandemic (and Pre-Pandemic) Student Challenges
  • Discipline, Disproportionality, Race, and Disability

Politics, the Common Good, and How the Past can Inform the Present

[CLICK HERE and Search by Title or Date]

January 9, 2021 Analyzing, Understanding, and Changing Extreme Behavior: In the Capitol and In the Classroom. It’s Never as Easy as We Think or Want

January 23, 2021 An Inaugural Poem for the Ages Challenges All Educators as the Torch is Passed: A Lesson Plan to Help School Staff Become Part of the Solution

April 17, 2021 Reconciling “Civil Liberty” Claims that Compromise Public Health and Student Welfare: When a “Me-First” Perspective Undermines Our “We-First” Needs

May 22, 2021 Sustaining Student Outcomes Beyond the Pandemic: Where Districts Need to Allocate Their American Rescue Plan (2021) Funds. Lessons Learned from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009)

Meeting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Needs with Good Science and Effective Practices

[CLICK HERE and Search by Title or Date]

March 20, 2021 A Consumer Alert: Student Awareness Does Not Usually Change Student Behavior. Do We Need to Dig a Moat Around CASEL’s Approach to Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?

April 3, 2021 Why Schools Need to Evaluate and Validate Before They Select and Direct (Their New Federal Funds to Services and Interventions). Be Cautious—What We Don’t Know about Student Mental Health and the Pandemic

May 1, 2021 Addressing Students’ Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Needs: All is Not What it Appears to Be. Remembering Bob Slavin and Applying his Legacy

July 10, 2021 Reconsidering or Rejecting SEL/Character Education, Meditation/Mindfulness/Trauma-Informed, and Restorative Justice Programs: Put on Your Hard Hat and Bring Your Lunch Pail (Part II)

October 23, 2021 Addressing Students’ SEL Pandemic Needs by Addressing their SEL Universal Needs: What Social, Emotional, Attributional, and Behavioral Skills Do ALL Students Need from an SEL Initiative? (Part I)

November 6, 2021 The Current State of SEL in our Schools: The Frenzy, the Flaws, and the Fads. If the Goal is to Teach Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Skills, Why are We Getting on the Wrong Trains Headed “West”? (Part II)

Implementing Effective Multi-Tiered Solutions to Pandemic (and Pre-Pandemic) Student Challenges

[CLICK HERE and Search by Title or Date]

February 6, 2021 Implementing Effective Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports during a Pandemic: Upgrading Your Academic and Social-Emotional Prevention, Assessment, and Interventions. It’s Not Your Fault...

February 20, 2021 The Pandemic, Students’ Academic Performance, and Preparing for the Rest of the School Year: Helping Teachers Prioritize Their Efforts, Emotions, and Efficacy

March 6, 2021 A Pandemic Playbook to Organize Your Pandemic Strategies Now and to Prepare for the 2021-2022 School Year: Where We’ve Been and What You Should Do

June 5, 2021 Maximizing Meeting Participation and Productivity: Is Everyone “Bringing It” to Your (Virtual or In-Person) Meeting? Why Be There if You’re Not There?

June 26, 2021 Reconsidering or Rejecting Collective Teacher Efficacy and the Acceleration of Students Who are Academically Behind: Take the Bus, Get Off the Bandwagon (Part I)

September 11, 2021 A Review of the BEST Resource to Guide Your School’s Instruction of the Whole Child: Connecting the Pandemic Needs of Your Students with Strategic Actions Supported by American Rescue Plan Funding

October 9, 2021 A Setting is NOT an Intervention: It’s Where the Real Intervention Has the Highest Probability of Success. It’s Not WHERE We Put Students and Staff, It’s WHAT We Do When They’re There.

Discipline, Disproportionality, Race, and Disability

[CLICK HERE and Search by Title or Date]

July 31, 2021 The Critical Common-Sense Components Needed to Eliminate Disproportionate School Discipline Referrals and Suspensions for Students of Color: This is NOT About Critical Race Theory (But We Discuss It) (Part I)

August 14, 2021 The Components Needed to Eliminate Disproportionate School Discipline Referrals and Suspensions for Students of Color Do Not Require Anti-Bias Training: Behind Every Iron Chef is an Iron-Clad Recipe (Part II)

August 28, 2021 Disproportionate School Discipline, and How Long-Term Suspensions Don’t Work and Don’t Improve Classroom Conditions When Students are Gone: The Numbers Don’t Lie, But Are They Enough to Prompt Change? (An Unexpected Series Part III)

September 25, 2021 How Have Districts Tried and Failed to Eliminate Disproportionate Discipline Rates for Students of Color and With Disabilities? It’s Not About the Plan, It’s About What’s IN the Plan. . . The Most Frequently Recommended Strategies Do Not Work

November 20, 2021 What Do Race, Reading, Billy Joel, and Jeopardy Have in Common with our Nation’s Students? They are All Putting our Nation’s Students At-Risk

December 4, 2021 Will the Controversy Over Critical Race Theory Damage Students’ Pursuit to Better Understand Cultural, Racial, and Individual Differences? Is Our Nation At-Risk. . . for Different Reasons than in 1983?


   I am still bullish about education, our ability to positively and productively address the systemic issues in our schools, our capacity to use sound science-to-practice solutions, and our potential to fully prepare our students as the next generation of leaders.

   As noted above, this will be accomplished through dedicated and caring professionals, by listening directly to our students, and by making difficult decisions in the face of—sometimes—insurmountable odds.

   I THANK each of you at this Holiday Season for what you do for your colleagues and communities, and for your students and their families.

   I wish you a safe and joyous Holiday Season.

   And I wish all of us a New Year where we can apply the “lessons learned” from the past year to maximize the student, staff, school, and systemic outcomes that we not only desire, but that motivate us to do this (sometimes) challenging work.