How can states foster social-emotional learning under the Every Student Succeeds Act?
That's the question posed recently by the Learning Policy Institute, and it's an angle I had not considered up until now in analyzing ESSA, the n ew law that will govern our schools for the next several years.
"For students to learn academically, schools must also support their social and emotional development," writes Hanna Melnick, one of the authors of the institute's report on the subject, Encouraging Social and Emotional Learning in the Context of New Accountability.
And she's right, of course. We know this intuitively as well as through numerous studies. Students don't fare as well academically when they're not able to handle the emotional rigors of being a human, or the social pressures of growing up. When their basic needs aren't being met, or when they're consistently the targets of racist thoughts, words and deeds.
Schools won't be able to fully address students' social and emotional development without acknowledging race and inequity. If they're forced to improve SEL, it may gradually force schools to create a better environment for students of color and students from low-income families -- those typically on the wrong side of the opportunity gap.
Pushing schools to focus on SEL could be a sneaky way to use accountability as a tool for equity. Read the full report and let me know what you think.