SEL Field NotesSEL Field Notes
This newsletter is curated by the American Institutes for Research and CASEL for the Measuring SEL Collaborator Network and aims to keep you engaged with news, research, and resources relevant to measurement and data in the field of social and emotional learning.
Please let us know what you are reading, doing and seeing in the field that’s worth sharing. Tell us about it here!
Measurement in Practice
EdSurge: How SEL Can Promote Hard Conversations About Mental Health
Between 2015 and 2018, eight students and one teacher from Olathe Public Schools committed suicide. Through each heartbreaking loss, administrators and staff worked to find lifesaving mental health supports and strategies for the 30,0000 students in Kansas’ second largest district. Twelve of Olathe’s 56 schools now have mental health clinicians. The district screens students with the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program. They also draw on the Communities That Care survey data, collected over a decade, to measure students’ well-being. With those tools in place, Olathe began measuring social-emotional learning (SEL) data and teaching SEL skills in every classroom in the fall of 2017. Combining SEL data with attendance, behavior and academic data gives Olathe educators and staff a more complete picture of each student—where they’re succeeding, where they’re struggling, even how they’re feeling.
Education practitioners, researchers, and policymakers are increasingly focusing on social and emotional development and positive school climates as essential factors to establish equitable learning environments in which all young people can thrive. This guide assists states and districts in making decisions about which types of measures related to social and emotional development and/or school climate to use, how those measures could be used, and important factors to consider in the process.
When some teachers in the Long Beach Unified School District hear students say they’re bad at math, they rephrase. You’re not bad, you’re just not understanding it yet. It’s not too difficult, it’s just challenging right now. These educators are helping students develop a growth mindset, a belief that they can improve their skills through effort. A growth mindset is one of four social-emotional learning traits the district — along with others in California — are trying to teach their students.
Research and Deep Dives
EducationNext: Social-Emotional Learning: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and What We Know
In the summer 2019 issue of Education Next, Grover Whitehurst expresses concern about current approaches to social-emotional learning, or SEL, and the state of the evidence supporting such “whole-learner” practices in schools. His principle points are: (1) that work in SEL is misfocused, meaning it is directed to the wrong things (e.g., personality traits, dispositions), and (2) that practice and policymaking have gotten ahead of the evidence. In this article authors respond and argue in reality, traditional approaches to social-emotional learning do not focus on “personality constructs such as conscientiousness and broad dispositions such as grit.” Rather, as we describe below, effective SEL programming focuses on concrete, teachable skills and has been shown in many studies to lead to gains in important outcomes.
The intensifying interest among education policymakers in the social and emotional dimensions of student success is encouraging news. By complementing the important work in recent years to raise standards and strengthen instruction, the increasing focus on school climate and students’ relationships to their peers and their schools is a potentially powerful catalyst for school improvement and student achievement. But for educators to take advantage of this promising new opportunity, they need to be able to measure school climate and students’ social and emotional development with confidence, respond effectively, and gauge if their improvement efforts have been successful.