December 2019

In This Issue:

A Message from the Executive Director – Supporting Students with School Safety Concerns
A Message from DPI – Implementing Social and Emotional Learning: Do No Harm
A Message from the WSCA Board – Service Learning and Character Education
Special Feature – Children’s Wisconsin supports social and emotional learning in schools
Feature Article – Step One of Developing a Multi-Level System of Support for Attendance, Behavioral, and Social-Emotional Concerns: Drafting Definitions
FREE Heavy Machine Workshop for High School Students!
FREE WSCA Conference Scholarship – Ascendium Fellowship
Legislative Update – Counseling for Career Choice Act
2019-2020 Conference
ASCA Model – ASCA Model & DPI SEL Standard Crosswalk
ASCA Model Training
Counselink – Equity & Creative School Counseling
WSCA Board Applications
WSCA Professional Recognition Awards
WSCA Volunteers Needed


A Message from the WSCA Executive Director

Supporting Students with School Safety Concerns

Stacy Eslick, WSCA Executive Director

Our hearts go out to all the counselors supporting students and schools with the school safety incidents this week.  With headlines like this from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal “What is going on? Fears of school shootings hit eight Wisconsin high schools in three days” we can see how this issue is impacting schools and communities. 

ASCA has published the following seven considerations to support students:

  • Try and keep routines as normal as possible. Kids gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
  • Limit exposure to television and the news.
  • Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.
  • Listen to kids’ fears and concerns.
  • Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be, but that there are people who do bad things.
  • Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress.
  • Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.

The November 2018 WSCAlink newsletter had a feature article with resources on school safety that counselors may find helfpul in supporting your schools, /wscalink/november-2018/#3,  

Julie Incitte, DPI School Social Work Consultant, also shared the following resouces that are helpful for us to consider as we try to better understand what has happened:

Know this: 20 Years After Columbine, Schools Have Gotten Safer. But Fears Have Only Grown. says the New York Times in an article of the same name from April 2019: “…fears run counter to the data presented in a federal report released this week. School is still among the safest places an American child can be.”

You may be wondering if you or your school team would be ready to handle this type of event. You could consider revisiting your school safety plan and trainings for staff. The Wisconsin Safe and Healthy Schools (WISH) Center offers PREPaRE training. DPI offers Suicide Prevention training through WISH. Research suggests a great way to prevent and prepare is to have your school safety team do table talks where you consider various scenarios and discuss plans for what should happen. Consider your mental health supports, your threat assessment protocol, your social and emotional learning development, your cultural responsiveness, and your trauma sensitive philosophy and practices, amongst other things.

Know that the law did change recently with 2019 Wisconsin Act 39 so that now you can announce fire, tornado, and school safety drills to students and staff in advance of the drill.

Here are additional resources:

Explaining the News to Our Kids –

Resources from Child Trends –

NASP School Safety Resources –

NCTSN Resources –

Talking to children about terrorist attacks and school and community shootings in the news –

How to talk to children about difficult news from the APA –

Please take time to care for you, your emtional well being is critical to being able to help your school communities.  It is hard not to take home your student stories and worries since you are passionate and care deeply about students. Thank you for all you do, you are so appreciated. 


A Message from the DPI


Special Article: Implementing Social and Emotional Learning – Do No Harm

Gregg Curtis, PhD, School Counseling Consultant
Beth Herman, MS, Education Consultant

One of the developmental domains of our practice is social and emotional development. This domain has garnered a lot of attention recently, as schools recognize the importance of social emotional competence in both school safety and the journey toward college and career readiness. 

In 2018, DPI published the PK-adult Wisconsin Social and Emotional Learning Competencies. Social and emotional learning competencies are lifelong skills, essential for everyone. Until that time, no comprehensive, developmentally appropriate SEL competencies had been available to all educators and out-of-school-time programs in the state. Long thought to be the responsibility of only pupil services staff, these competencies support the belief that SEL skills are best learned when all adults are teaching, providing opportunities to practice, modeling, and reinforcing these skills throughout the day.

Instrumental in the development of the competencies and the professional development supporting the implementation of schoolwide SEL, DPI education consultant Beth Herman graciously agreed to write this month’s topic-specific article presenting SEL through an equity lens. Many thanks to Beth for her dedication and passion in this work.

“How do we implement and practice SEL to ensure that it doesn’t cause harm?” These words, shared by Dr. Dena Simmons from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, at the CASEL SEL Exchange in October, resonated with me. They perfectly summed up a very real concern I have had regarding the social and emotional learning work we have done at DPI over the last three years. 

Educators are a caring group of professionals but sometimes, in our zeal to right wrongs, we blunder forward with programs and practices that often have unintended consequences. Dr. Simmons’ words are a prescient reminder of the frame from which we should be approaching social and emotional learning but doing so requires us to think more deeply about what we believe we already know about it. In this article I address four areas to challenge your thinking followed by some recommendations for practice. 

 Social and emotional learning skills are not fixed. We all possess these skills on a continuum. All of us have areas of strength and areas of weakness and these strengths and weaknesses change over time. These skills are also very contextual. We can be strong advocates for our own needs at school or work but not with our family or loved ones. This does not mean we don’t have the skill, we just aren’t applying it equally in all environments. This has great implications when we screen and assess. If we look at only one environment we may not get the whole picture, nor see strengths but only weaknesses. 

The social and emotional learning competencies we teach and promote are deeply connected to the dominant culture. Our students learn many valuable social and emotional skills within their own cultures and communities. Sometimes these skills overlap and sometimes they do not. We know that developing the SEL skills of the dominant culture can provide better access to jobs, future education and wider civic engagement, but these skills are not superior. The SEL skills that we promote should be additional skills rather than replacement skills. One of the most useful applications of SEL is knowing what skills are expected in any given environment and having those skills at our disposal. This approach acknowledges the experiences of our youth and families and gives students agency to decide when and where to employ the SEL skills we teach and promote.

Social and emotional skills are not for students alone. The Wisconsin Social and Emotional Learning Competencies are written for Pre-K through Adult. These skills are a lifelong work in progress. If we are to effectively provide students with an additional set of skills that provide them equal access to the world of work and education and our communities at large, we also need to ensure that our adults bring their best SEL skills to the table. Much of the SEL skill development occurs through modeling by adults. A great curriculum taught without strong adult modeling will net zero results for student growth. 

And finally, we must understand that social and emotional skills and behavior are not the same thing. They are connected to be sure, but there are any number of reasons a student misbehaves and many of these reasons have nothing to do with the lack of a skill or its application. When we don’t see these as separate we run the risk of making assumptions that are neither helpful nor effective in addressing misbehavior. We need to be cautious when assessing SEL skills. Using SEL assessments to identify students for special programming or placement is not advised. Behavioral assessments, on the other hand, are psychometrically robust and more appropriate for identifying students for placement in programming. SEL instruction and practice may be an intervention in a “placement” but it should not be the reason the student is assigned to that “placement.” 

So how do we, as educators, move forward with social and emotional learning in a way that does not do harm? 

  1. Districts must acknowledge that there are marginalized groups in their schools who are impacted by bias and structural inequality and they must work to mitigate those inequities.
  2. Create school cultures in which all children feel safe and respected and where diversity is viewed as a strength
  3. Put the focus on growth and approach SEL from the perspective of strengths rather than deficits
  4. Be intentional about developing and supporting adult social and emotional learning
  5. Approach SEL assessment with thoughtful planning and attention. Assessment that does not start with a clear purpose and plan has the potential to do harm to our students through misidentifying “deficits” and creating an environment that provides one more place that our marginalized students can fail.

Creating environments and SEL programming that is healthy and enriching requires thoughtful planning and implementation but you don’t have to tackle this alone. DPI has worked with multiple national experts and local stakeholders to create resources and supports for schools and districts. See DPI’s Social and Emotional Learning webpage for more information.

To further address SEL and Equity, the State Superintendent’s Equity Stakeholder council will be releasing a guidance document for schools, districts, and communities entitled Social and Emotional Considerations for District and School Implementation.  In this document the state level stakeholder Equity Council offers recommendations “to implement high quality SEL services and systems, keep equity at the forefront of their work, and maintain our shared commitment to disrupting systemic educational inequities across Wisconsin.” 

When done well, social and emotional learning can address inequities and can provide all of our students with the non-technical skills needed to be competent, confident, and connected children and adults. Research supports that SEL competence correlates to numerous positive outcomes. To do it well, however, requires us to be intentional about implementation to ensure that we don’t harm children, youth, and families with our good intentions.


A Message from the WSCA Board of Directors


Amy Everson, School Counselor

Service Learning and Character Education

Westside Elementary, River Falls, WI

Our school district made a commitment 10 years ago to learn about and live out character education in our schools. We started by training our educators in the 11 Principles of Character ( and continue to train our new staff each year. It’s a part of how we teach, counsel, interact, and play. Each school focuses on the following traits: Respect, Responsibility, Citizenship, Compassion, Perseverance, Courage, Cooperation, Positive Attitude, and Honesty. Our elementary students learn and practice these traits during bi-monthly Pride Groups as they pair with another grade level class to participate in activities and learning around the character trait of the month. At the end of each month, we come together as a whole school to celebrate our learning through a student and teacher led assembly.

This year at our school we’ve added an additional layer to character education with a Character Council including any 4th and 5th grade student who would like to participate. This has replaced our traditional student council. And so far, our students have worked on several service learning projects including a school neighborhood leaf rake for some homes that could not rake their own leaves this year due to poor health, homebound, or other factors. The students loved this opportunity! Here are a few reflections from our students about raking leaves: “I learned being part of a team is GREAT! “I can help little by little,” and “I learned that in an activity like this you have to cooperate or nothing will get done.” Other service projects include thank you notes to our bus drivers, delivering donated gifts to our Giving Tree program during the month of December for community families, ringing bells for the Salvation Army, picking up trash at our school fundraising day, and hosting a bake sale to help purchase milk for school children around the world through Heifer International ( The importance of these activities for our students is so vital as they grow into adults of character.

There are many positive benefits of character education in life outcomes. Non-cognitive skills such as perseverance, self-control, attentiveness, self-efficacy, resilience to adversity, empathy, humility, tolerance of diverse opinions, and the ability to engage productively in society, are valued in the labor market, in school, and within our communities (Duckworth & Gross, 2014; Heckman & Kautz, 2014). According to Heckman and Kautz (2014), these skills enable people to shape their lives and to flourish. Character skills generate economic productivity and create social well-being. Non-cognitive skills rival IQ in predicting educational attainment, labor market success, health, and criminality (Almlund et al., 2011; Heckman & Kautz, 2014). Non-cognitive skills are malleable (Heckman & Kautz, 2014). Schools can influence and shape these non-cognitive skills through effective character education practices (Berkowitz, 2002). At the 5th grade level, our students create a Learner’s Resume to outline their strengths, interests, and challenges to share with the middle school as they transition over to a new school the following year. Included in this document is a deeper reflection about their own character. The students reflect on what character means to them, what is their strongest character trait, and how they have modeled good character while in elementary school. It’s amazing to see our students able to articulate not only the definitions of each character trait at a young age, but to be able to connect to their own actions and learning how character has changed them for the good. The importance of these traits are the foundation of our students and community. We hope as a school district that our students can say when they graduate, I have been positively impacted as a result of character education at the forefront of my learning.

Children’s Wisconsin supports social and emotional learning in schools

Children’s Wisconsin applauds WSCA and Wisconsin school counselors for being long-time leaders in social and emotional learning (SEL). The increased focus on SEL in Wisconsin schools is exciting, and Children’s is proud to support this initiative with a variety of online programs and resources at no cost to Wisconsin schools. For more than 13 years, Children’s has been providing educators and counselors with engaging e-learning courses on important health education topics that align with many SEL competencies. Topics include: bullying prevention; mental and emotional health; alcohol, tobacco and other drugs prevention; healthy eating and physical activity; and safety and injury prevention. 

The resources that specifically focus on SEL are Act Now! e-learning courses for bullying prevention, Healthy Minds e-learning courses for mental and emotional health and Take 5ive guided video exercises for mindfulness. 

Bullying Prevention
Act Now! is a continuum of bullying prevention e-learning courses designed for K-8th grade students, school staff and parents. Developed in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Act Now! aligns with DPI and CASEL SEL competencies and supports the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for School Counseling. Act Now! addresses all types of bullying, including cyberbullying and sexual harassment at the middle school level. The program empowers bystanders to stand up to bullying and improve overall school climate. A staff training program is available and recommended for optimal success in reducing bullying. A PBIS Tier II/III targeted behavioral intervention program and Parents Act Now! an interactive parent education website are also available. 

Children’s Wisconsin, in collaboration with DPI, is again awarding $1,500.00 grants to 25 Wisconsin schools to deliver Act Now! Staff Training for the 2019-2020 school year. The focus of these grants is to support schools’ efforts to participate in both the staff training and student bullying prevention courses to reduce bullying and improve school climate. The staff training program will teach school staff to understand what bullying looks like, how to identify where bullying is occurring, and how to develop a unified plan for addressing bullying behaviors.

Mental and Emotional Health
Research shows that as many as one in six U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 17 have a treatable mental health disorder, but that nearly half of these children do not receive counseling or treatment. As part of Children’s vision of having the healthiest kids in the nation, an updated strategy now focuses on a broader definition of health – one that includes mental and emotional health and looks at addressing the mental and emotional health crisis in new and innovative ways.

One of the new and innovative programs is Healthy Minds, a planned continuum of mental and emotional health e-learning courses for K-8th grade students. Healthy Minds provides an engaging look at what makes a healthy mind and introduces the skills needed to help students lead healthy lives. Healthy Minds 3rd Grade, the first in the continuum, is now available.

Healthy Minds aligns with the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success and DPI’s SEL competencies. The courses will address: recognizing feelings and emotions and learning how to deal with them; empathy and compassion; stress; healthy relationships; common mental health disorders and concerns; and how to get help when needed.

Mindfulness is a research-based tool that starts with purposefully bringing focus to thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and environment, with kindness and without judgment. Take 5ive mindfulness exercises for students in K-12th grade, are a series of guided practice videos that can be integrated into the school day to help improve focus and attention, decrease stress and anxiety, increase feelings of kindness, and increase the ability to manage emotions.

Children’s Wisconsin is happy to help you access these free resources, located at, and support you as you integrate them into your counseling curriculum and SEL framework. Our e-learning team looks forward to seeing you again at the February 2020 WSCA conference in Madison. Stop by our exhibit booth to learn more and enter a drawing to win a Kindle Fire HD. 



Step One of Developing a Multi-Level System of Support for Attendance, Behavioral, and Social-Emotional Concerns: Drafting Definitions

By: Adriana Plach, Continuous Improvement Coordinator of Pewaukee School District

We are all familiar with RtI and the need to provide purposeful support and intervention in math and literacy for students who demonstrate the need for more.  However, many districts struggle with how to develop and implement a similar system for the increasing amount of social-emotional concerns that our students are experiencing.  Asa Clark Middle School (Pewaukee School District) has established a system to identify and monitor the social-emotional concerns of our learners, making something that often seems intangible, tangible.  Our journey began several years ago, and while we have made adjustments along the way, the system that we developed has demonstrated its sustainability over time. 

A critical first step is the identification of tier definitions.  In addition to Tier 2 and 3, ACMS identifies a “Tier 1.5” which serves as a “monitor list” for students who may be at risk for moving into Tier 2 or 3.  The goal of Tier 1.5 is to provide proactive support for those learners without waiting until they show a level of concern warranting more intense intervention.  For all of us in counseling, we know that emerging concerns in behavior or social-emotional areas can escalate quickly, and we strive to monitor and address these proactively. ACMS began with the identification of definitions for attendance – this was the easiest place for us to start because state statutes provided some of the definitions for us.  The definitions for Tiers 1.5 – 3 are below.

We also created definitions for students who struggle with behavior and decision-making in school.  We utilized our behavior reporting system that includes major behavior referrals (addressed by the office) and minor behavior referrals (addressed within the classroom).  In addition to creating the tiered definitions, it was critical for us to establish teacher expectations regarding how and when to complete referrals, and expectations regarding how and when communication home would take place and be documented.  Moreover, our administration was very transparent with our staff regarding when and how they would be communicating home regarding behavioral concerns addressed in the office. Understanding the roles of teachers, counselors, and administration within this process, and fidelity in adhering to this is the foundation on which this system was built and is sustained.  

Finally, we created the definitions for our social-emotional tiers.  These definitions were more challenging to create, and a significant amount of time was dedicated to crafting these.  It was important for us to recognize that the middle school years are ripe with emotional changes and transitions, and we wanted to find a balance recognizing this while also accurately identifying and responding to social-emotional concerns.  Students can be self-identified, or referred by a parent, counselor, staff member, our SRO/law enforcement, or via attendance and behavior reports.

These definitions and the expectations with the roles and responsibilities of our behavior reporting system has created a strong foundation for our mulit-level system of support.  Additional steps have been created to ensure that student confidentiality is protected, and measures have been implemented to determine interventions, monitor progress, and make tier-movement decisions when interventions need to be increased or are able to be reduced or discontinued.  Those details, however, are for a future article!

ASCA Ethics connection: A.1; A.3; A.4; A.10; B.1; B.2


Counseling for Career Choice Act 

In recognition of National Career Development week, Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), co-chairs of the Congressional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced the Counseling for Career Choice Act, bipartisan legislation that would make new investments in school counseling to better prepare students for educational and career opportunities.The Counseling for Career Choice Act amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide grants to states to implement statewide career counseling frameworks that are developed in coordination with community stakeholders, including schools and local businesses. It is supported by the National Career Development Association (NCDA), the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Advance CTE, the American School Counselors Association, and the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers.

States will use Counseling for Career Choice Act grant funds to carry out the following activities:

  • Develop and implement comprehensive school career counseling programs that align with the statewide career counseling framework;
  • Identify regional workforce trends in collaboration with state and regional workforce partners, and establish partnerships between counselors and states’ Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act One-Stop Centers;
  • Identify and assess school counseling activities and postsecondary options for youth, including out-of-school youth and adults;
  • Develop and implement professional development and certification programs for counselors; and
  • Support the statewide career counseling framework by leveraging technologies and developing a process for counselors to access information and resources.

WSCA will continue to monitor this legislation, and keep members aware of opportunities to advocate for it.

Click here to read the entire press release.