Giving Compass’ Take:
• Tennessee Education Commissioner, Penny Schwinn, plans to implement social services, social-emotional learning instruction, and teacher training in rural schools across Tenessee districts.
• How would social-emotional learning help rural schools specifically? How can donors help school districts expand successful programs?
• Read about how rural schools struggle to retain leaders.
The listening tour, the student focus groups, the marquee school transformation plan: There’s a lot about Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s first year on the job that might be straight out of a standard new top teacher’s playbook. But in terms of K-12 education policy, Tennessee is no ordinary playing field. An unusually large number of its schools exist in a degree of geographic isolation that’s hard to fathom, in far-flung mountain hamlets with high levels of substance abuse, few social supports and even fewer economic prospects. The schoolhouse is often a community’s chief — or lone — public building.
In recent years, Tennessee has experienced a number of problems administering its annual state-mandated exams. Perhaps because of this, Gov. Bill Lee touted Schwinn’s expertise in data and testing as one reason for her appointment. At 37, she is both the youngest education commissioner in Tennessee history and the first person of color to hold the position.
Her ambitious, three-pronged plan contemplates academics but also includes using schoolhouses to get mental health, wellness and social services into rural communities and, with a third of Tennessee teachers at retirement age, training their replacements in working with the “whole child.”
Schwinn talked to Beth Hawkins about the challenge of introducing social-emotional learning in Southern, red-state schools, her hope of training teachers free of charge and how to empower schools to respond to emotional disturbances that, in other times, were the responsibility of other civic agencies. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read the full article about bringing social services to rural schools by Beth Hawkins at The 74.
Since you are interested in North America, have you read these selections from Giving Compass related to impact giving and North America?
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