Happy New Year, SEL Fans!
The beginning of a new swing around the sun is a great time to get back to basics. What is social and emotional learning, and why is it important to academic success? That’s the essential question, and a growing body of data from around the country shows that teaching social and emotional skills as explicitly as reading, writing, math and science improves academic achievement, reduces behavior problems, and sets students up for success as adults.
This wheel graphic shows the five core competencies defined by the Chicago-based Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), with specific behavior lists clarifying each competency. What exactly is CASEL? So glad you asked! From the website:
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)[‘s]…mission is to help make evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education from preschool through high school. Through research, practice and policy, CASEL collaborates to ensure all students become knowledgeable, responsible, caring and contributing members of society.
The Austin Independent School District is one of eight large urban districts participating in CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative:
Given the importance of district-level leadership and coordination, in 2011 CASEL launched a national initiative aimed at supporting districts’ capacities to promote SEL for all students. Called the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI), this effort recognizes that positive student outcomes depend on improving classrooms and schools, which in turn depends on improving districtwide capacities and conditions.
AISD is in good company with school districts from Anchorage to Reno, Oakland to Cleveland. These and many other schools and districts across the country have adopted evidence-based, CASEL-vetted explicit SEL instruction curricula. We also work to build a culture and climate that integrates and reinforces SEL skills, from each classroom to the whole district. But why?
Again from CASEL:
[Teaching SEL Skills] provide[s] a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance as reflected in more positive social behaviors and peer relationships, fewer conduct problems, less emotional distress, and improved grades and test scores.
So the next question becomes, is it working? When students receive explicit SEL instruction and go to school in a culture and climate that promotes social and emotional well-being, do they show increased academic success?
Data points to a resounding YES.
Two recent nprEd articles discuss social and emotional learning on a national scale, and cite large research studies showing that schools teaching SEL skills see marked increases in academic success. In “Why Emotional Learning May be as Important as the A-B-Cs,” National Public Radio cites the FastTrack Project, a research inquiry that followed 979 kindergartners for 20 years. These students were randomly assigned to a 10-year intervention track or a control group. The results (published in the American Journal of Psychiatry last September) showed that the children who received early social and emotional skill building and reinforcement throughout their school career had achieved higher academic success and had fewer arrests, emotional problems and substance abuse issues in their adult lives.
In nprEd’s “Teaching 4-Year-Olds to Feel Better,” the story cites research commissioned by the Federal Health and Human Services Department that looked at thousands of pre-schoolers in all regions of the country. The study, conducted by MDRC and HeadStart, showed that when students were explicitly taught skills to self-manage and get along with others, they spent more time engaged in learning.
Closer to home, the AISD Department of Research and Evaluation published its study of the efficacy of our own Social and Emotional Learning district-wide program. It shows that not only do SEL schools see marked improvement in academic achievement and school climate, the longer a school has been participating in SEL instruction and integration, the more academics and climate improve.
Finally, a recent compelling study from Columbia University shows that school districts investing money and resources in social and emotional skill instruction get a significant positive return on that investment from the increased academic achievement and attendance levels of students. In fact, because children who receive social and emotional education during their school years tend to be incarcerated less often and make better life choices, it benefits the economy on a national level.
So, in conclusion, who are we and why are we here? We are AISD Social and Emotional Learning, and we are on the forefront of a national movement to improve the academics and lives of students everywhere! #AISDproud