Summer 2015 has been a good season for Social and Emotional Learning on our local district level. We’ve been busy with curriculum writing, collaborating to put on an awesome Whole Child Every Child institute, rolling out SEL for the Anderson and Lanier vertical teams, and getting ready for school year ’15-16 with 100% of AISD schools participating in Social and Emotional Learning!
SEL is getting a lot of national attention lately as well, with new reports from on-going studies showing the deep effects and concrete benefits that intentional, integrated social and emotional learning has for students and society. In several articles, Austin Independent School District is featured prominently as an early leader in the Academic and Social and Emotional Learning movement.
In the early 1990s, about 50 kindergarten teachers were asked to rate the social and communication skills of 753 children in their classrooms. It was part of the Fast Track Project, an intervention and study administered in Durham, N.C., Nashville, Seattle and central Pennsylvania. The goals were to understand how children develop healthy social skills, and help them do so.
This month, researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke published a study that looked at what had happened to those students in the 13 to 19 years since they left kindergarten. Their findings warrant major attention because the teachers’ rankings were extremely prescient.
They predicted the likelihood of many outcomes: whether the children would graduate from high school on time, get college degrees, have stable or full-time employment as young adults; whether they would live in public housing or receive public assistance; whether they would be held in juvenile detention or be arrested as adults. The kindergarten teachers’ scores also correlated with the number of arrests a young adult would have for severe offenses by age 25.
These studies suggest that if we want many more children to lead fulfilling and productive lives, it’s not enough for schools to focus exclusively on academics. Indeed, one of the most powerful and cost-effective interventions is to help children develop core social and emotional strengths like self-management, self-awareness and social awareness — strengths that are necessary for students to fully benefit from their education, and succeed in many other areas of life.
It goes on to cite various studies that support how critical Social and Emotional Learning is for students across the board, and does mention Austin ISD as an SEL pioneer!
Referenced in the previous article, this PBS News story and this report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation both discuss the implications of the FastTrack study, which tracked the life events of several hundred kindergarten students who had been “scored” on their level of social and emotional competence. Both articles point to the capacity for every student to learn and practice social and emotional skills, and how this intentional learning has strong benefits that echo through the rest of each individual’s life.
For another perspective, the Committee for Children recently published “The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning,” which digests the findings from this study done in collaboration with Columbia University. In short, the study finds that “The average return on investment for all six SEL interventions analyzed is 11 to 1, meaning that for every dollar invested there is a return of 11 dollars. In summary, SEL is well worth the cost.”
Basically, we’re getting lots and lots of good press because supportive data just keeps rolling in. Let’s be #AISDproud of the intentional, innovative, valuable Social and Emotional Learning that our district is working to bring to 100% of our students!