A concerned community member reached out to Parents Defending Education and explained that the Allegheny Valley School District has adopted the PATHS Program and PASS to implement Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into the curriculum for students. The school district’s website promotes the implementation of the PATHS Program in the “elementary buildings.” The district then lists the five categories of SEL that students learn. These categories are “self awareness,” “self management,” “social awareness,” “relationship management,” and “responsible decision making.” These are the same categories promoted by CASEL.
The website for the PATHS Program explains that the service “provides comprehensive research-based, culturally relevant, engaging social emotional learning curriculum and training worldwide.” The term “culturally relevant” is often used to describe a method of teaching that includes the race and ethnicity of students as part of the lessons taught in classrooms. The company’s website also explains that it is “the publisher and sole source provider of the CASEL SELect” program.
CASEL is an organization that works with school districts throughout the country to use SEL in an effort to push “equity” and “social justice” in education. On July 1, 2020, CASEL promoted “racial justice” in discussing its roadmap for reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. In explaining the importance of the reopening process for schools, the organization stated that “this moment called on all members of our school communities to deepen our social and emotional competencies and create equitable learning environments where all students and adults process, heal, and thrive.” CASEL also published a video in 2020 titled “SEL As a Lever for Equity and Social Justice.”
On February 14, 2022, the school district created a document showing how ESSER funding will be used. The document shows that $26,638 will be used to “purchase PASS program” and for “materials and supplies to support PASS.” Another $8,879 is designated for “partial/full funding for salary and benefit for staff SEL professional development training.”
The school district also has a document online that provides a quote to hire PASS in order to further integrate SEL into the curriculum. The quote is $20,460 for a total three years of service. This service includes surveys for students that enable “schools to proactively identify social and emotional barriers to learning, including connection, self-efficacy, and motivation.” The service also includes an “intervention guide” that provides “over 130 research-backed strategies designed to empower administrators and teachers to help their students develop the non-academic skills needed to succeed in school, work, and life.”
The document is accompanied by a brochure that explains “the PASS survey measures both students’ attitudes toward themselves as learners and their school.” The brochure continues to explain that “PASS data serves as an early warning indicator, allowing schools to proactively address barriers to learning.” This includes providing data on students by race and gender. The survey “provides a snapshot of collective attitudes by cohort or demographics, such as grade, ethnicity, gender, ELL status, and socio-economic group.”
The website for PASS explains that the organization serves “over 3.5 million students.” The organization claims that its program allows schools to “sensitively evaluate all students K-12 for potential barriers to learning with a quick, easy-to-use SEL measure that is standardized and research-backed.” Schools can additionally “gain insight into student attitudes with easy to analyze traffic light reporting for the entire district, including demographic groups, and individual students.”