What is AASA’s Learning 2025 Learner-Centered Future-Driven Education Network?
The Learning 2025 Network is an initiative by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and envisions an education system that addresses all aspects of a learner’s development, from social and emotional aspects to cognitive, mental health, and trauma-based needs. The core components are a relationship-based culture, a growth model for social, emotional, and cognitive development, and strategically aligned resources to meet all children’s needs. The goal is to enhance student achievement and ensure no learner is marginalized, regardless of their background or circumstances.
Why is Deer Lakes School District partnering with the AASA’s Learning 2025 initiative?
The Deer Lakes School District aims to utilize every available resource to enhance educational experiences for every student and to meet the diverse educational and social-emotional needs of every student. AASA’s Learning 2025 initiative serves as an important tool for the District’s Administration and Staff to offer students the best educational experiences possible.
How has the Deer Lakes School District benefited from AASA’s Learning 2025 initiative?
If you were to walk into one of the Deer Lakes School District’s buildings, you would see Portrait of a Learner posters in every room. This makes Portrait of a Learner the most noticeable benefit of the Deer Lakes School District’s involvement in the AASA’s Learning 2025 initiative. Development for the Portrait of a Learner profile began in August 2022 and was a collaborative effort among administrators, staff, and students. The implementation of Portrait of a Learner began in August 2023. Portrait of a Learner implementation aims to enhance the District’s curriculum to promote student success and well-being. Learn more about Portrait of a Learner here.
The Deer Lakes School District benefited from the AASA’s Learning 2025 initiative in the form of professional development for administrators and teachers, networking regionally and nationally with educators from other districts, visiting other districts to learn how they are building career and learning pathways, and attending national conferences to learn about advancements in education on topics like Artificial Intelligence.
The Deer Lakes School District also has had increased media coverage as a result of partnering with AASA Learning 2025, including articles in the Valley News Dispatch and a recent appearance on KDKA to promote Deer Lakes programming, staff, and students.
Most importantly, the AASA’s Learning 2025 initiative aims to strengthen the Deer Lakes School District’s positive school culture.
Deer Lakes School District has been designated as a Demonstration System to Watch. What does this designation mean?
This designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate exceptional commitment to the Learning 2025 principles and effective implementation of the Learning 2025 Network’s goals. They recognize and amplify the successful work of these districts, inspiring other systems in the network.
The District first earned this designation for its partnership with Wesley Family Services’ Child & Adolescent Partial Hospital Program to provide day treatment services for students grades K - 12 at Deer Lakes High School. The program serves children from various school districts throughout Western Pennsylvania with intense mental health and psychological challenges with the goal of transitioning them back into traditional educational placement. The program provides comprehensive mental health treatment including individual, family and group therapies as well as weekly psychiatric monitoring. Students are referred through their home school district and/or local mental health providers. Students also receive academic instruction and support provided by Deer Lakes' School District’s educational staff.
The District again earned this designation for its efforts toward Total Wellness.
Deer Lakes Total Wellness includes all grade levels providing strong mental health programs which include appropriate staffing such as school counselors in each building, social workers, behavior therapists, and mental health professions.
At the elementary and middle schools, students are learning social, emotional, and coping skills through the Second Step SEL curriculum. The program is designed to reduce impulsive, high-risk, and aggressive behaviors and increase children’s social competence. The entire staff supports the lessons and the themes within their classrooms. Second Step helps students build social and emotional skills-like nurturing positive relationships, managing emotions, and setting goals so they can thrive in school and life.
Curtisville Primary has also worked to develop, implement, and earn the Alliance for Healthier Generation Recognition. Curtisville Primary was one of 13 school districts recognized nationwide for their healthy work building wide. The school was recognized for: Increasing Family and Community Engagement, Improving Nutrition and Food Access, Implementing Local School Wellness Policies, Enriching Health Education, Bolstering Physical Education and Activity, Strengthening Social-Emotions Health and Learning, Cultivation Staff Well Being, Promoting Tobacco Free Schools, and Supporting School Health Services. Students and staff begin their days with physical activity and also take mindfulness brain breaks throughout the day as part of their wellness plan.
Curtisville Primary and East Union Intermediate staff have been trained to implement Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS), an evidence-based tiered framework for supporting student’s behavior, academic, social, emotional and mental health. Both schools met the criteria for implementing School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports with fidelity for over two years. The schools were recognized at the PAPBIS Implementers Forum for their efforts in social and emotional growth. PBIS is a systematic way of teaching, modeling and acknowledging students for meeting school behavioral expectations. All students are able to achieve success and learn the necessary social and emotional skills that will allow them to be successful in and out of school. The Kind, Courageous, and Healthy expectations are taught, and positive behavior is celebrated individually and school wide.
The Middle School has also incorporated PBIS as part of their total wellness. They are working through implementation and are seeing positive results. In addition, they have created a calming room for students to visit when they need a break from the stresses in their day. They have added personalized recess options for students to participate in outdoor/indoor recess activities without electronic devices or visit a Quiet Room space for needed stress free downtime.
As part of total wellness, the Middle School wanted to focus on building positive relationships with families. The staff partnered with Parents as Allies to create a team of parents, teachers, and administrators to learn about the ongoing research from the Brooking Institution that explores the impact and role of family-school engagement around the world. The work from this team along with the mini-grant from Parents as Allies helped reimagine the back-to-school open house. Students and parents visited teachers for the traditional presentation then moved as a group to social time by visiting food trucks and sitting together to form connections and build relationships beyond academics and playing games.
The Middle School was also recognized as a Don Eichhorn School to Watch. The mission of the Schools to Watch program is to “assist Pennsylvania middle grades schools build capacity.” The program recognizes schools that achieve academic excellence based on the rigorous criteria established by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. A key area of focus for the recognition is schools that provide access to comprehensive services to foster healthy physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development.
Team Upstanders, an anti-bullying initiative launched by actor and producer Trevor Donovan, has been established at the Deer Lakes Middle School as another way to support total wellness. Team Upstanders’ mission is to assist students and school communities to create cultures of belonging, kindness, acceptance, and tolerance. The vision of Team Upstanders is to support the creation of positive and inclusive school environments. The role of an Upstander is to support fellow classmates, share their positive influence, and access support for those who need it by reaching out to a teacher or staff member.
The high school has also been focused on a variety of redesigned programming focusing on total wellness. The staff has been trained on PBIS and staff and students are welcoming the positive changes in student behavior as a result of the program.
Stand Together, a social change, peer-to-peer model to stop stigma by promoting positive change in schools was added at the high school and middle schools. School advisors lead the program and have been trained along with the students in ways to promote programs and activities to decrease mental health stigma and encourage students to seek help and help others. The goals of Stand Together are to increase education and awareness, promote inclusion between adolescents and their peers with behavioral health challenges, and encourage adolescents to reach out to a trusted adult.
A Mental Toughness Course was added as an elective course option as another way to support students' total wellness. To help students cope with the pressures of high school the students discover a variety of healthy and impactful techniques to strive for optimal mental health. Units/lessons include: stress management, time management, physical activity/exercise, communications skills, S.M.A.R.T goals, sleep, hygiene, relaxation techniques, nutrition information, and Fitness Apps to explore their interests.
The high school staff recognized the increase in the mental health needs of our school community and searched for ways to help support students in a more impactful manner. The Renew Room was introduced as a quiet and calm space with sensory items focused on the reduction of stress and emotional regulation. Individuals seeking out support within the Renew Room have access to one-to-one counseling, support groups, school-based outpatient services, and social/emotional based curriculum consultations. This space also provides opportunities for skill building, allowing students to learn about their emotions, and how to regulate them as well as coping strategies to handle stress and anxiety in a healthy manner. The goal of the Renew Room was to decrease the number of behavioral health referral and incidents such as disruptive behavior, feelings of hopelessness, and absenteeism.
Through the support of the Grable Foundation and the Little Tugboat grants the District was able to partner with the Learner Centered Collaborative to develop a Portrait of a Learner.
Deer Lakes School District is part of an AASA Learning 2025 Regional Network Innovation Hub. What does that mean?
The AASA Learning 2025 Network has worked with groups from five states to create regional hubs that comprise over 100 districts within the network. These Regional Network Innovation Hubs consist of participating school districts that strengthen their innovation by collaborating among their systems to leverage collective knowledge and expertise to move public education forward in their region. There are more than 30 Western Pennsylvania districts participating in the AASA Learning 2025 initiative and in our Regional Network Innovation Hub, including neighboring districts Hampton Township and Fox Chapel Area.
Does Learning 2025 take away from the academic programs at Deer Lakes?
No. In addition to the Deer Lakes School District following the Pennsylvania Department of Education state standards and providing a high-quality curriculum to our students, Learning 2025 promotes a “sense of belonging” for all students to make sure that their academic goals can be enhanced with a deep caring for their community and fellow students and staff.