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Articles: Social-Emotional Learning

Pre-K programs for students with special needs vary widely in quality and scope. Some states and districts have long included students with special needs in pre-K classes alongside their more typically developing peers.

High school students in the tiny Magazine School District in Arkansas receive three hours of sex education a year in grades 9 through 12—an approach that Superintendent Brett Bunch acknowledges is inadequate. 

In the latest round of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam, given to more than 500,000 15-year-olds in 72 nations, students in the U.S. once again scored in the middle of the pack—and below average in math—raising concerns and sending educators looking for answers.

A 2015 study shows that education that focuses on the causes and consequences of depression and how to cultivate healthy emotions can decrease the rise of suicide.

The suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds is on the rise. While the statistics are dire, a solution seems to be taking shape. Prevention may be in the hands of the students themselves.

K12 educators increasingly embrace life skills curricula that promote social-emotional learning, mindfulness, problem-solving and other soft skills. Many districts no longer view such programs as “nice to have,” but as essential components of overall instruction.

NAVIGATING REFERRALS—Chris Walker, principal of Central High at Muncie Community Schools, works with Samantha Ivy, a family navigator at the school. Navigators in part handle referrals and intakes for students and families who may need behavioral health services, based on an assessment from a local mental health agency.

Here are three approaches to social-emotional learning

Washoe County Schools, Nevada

District social-emotional learning standards address five crucial competencies—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and decision-making.

The district has defined indicators for development in each area, such as “demonstrates knowledge of personal strengths, challenges and potential.”

COMPASSION IN ACTION—At Johnston Elementary School in Buncombe County Schools, police officers spent time with students last summer after three shootings in the community. The school uses “compassionate response,” which in part means giving students specific duties to feel proud of themselves and valued by staff.

Educators across the country have boosted student performance by weaving social-emotional lessons—such as regulating emotion, accepting mistakes and coping with stress—into everyday instruction.

Pamela Davis Smith is the principal of Highland View Elementary, a Title I school in Bristol, Virginia.
In a perfect world, every child would have access to food, shelter and clothing. They would have loving, attentive parents. They would arrive at school eager, focused and ready to learn. Unfortunately, our pre-K through 5 school, like a growing number of U.S. public schools, does not reside in that world.
Terry Schmitz,  Founder,  The Conover Company

Most SEL programs today rely on surveying students. But surveys are self-reflective, so they tend not to be accurate. If you ask students if they have issues with time management, they might say no, even if they do.