Education Week - October 11, 2017 - 9
Clear of SEL
In ESSA Plans
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
velopment in areas like relationship
skills and decisionmaking alongside
academics. Doing so helps to deepen
students' learning experiences and
prepares them for situations they
will later face in the workplace, educators say.
As the U.S. Department of Education works to approve state's ESSA
plans, some of social-emotional
learning's biggest boosters are expressing relief that states are steering clear of trying to measure such
personal skills for accountability.
Broad Latitude for States
Existing measures of social and
emotional development, which largely
rely on students' responses to surveys about their own character traits,
are not sophisticated and consistent
enough to be used for such purposes,
they have long argued.
"There is a groundswell of recognition that the academic, social, and
emotional development of children are
intertwined in all experiences of learning," said Tim Shriver, the co-founder
of the Collaborative for Academic,
Social, and Emotional Learning, or
CASEL. "I think that's booming ...
Someone might say, 'Why aren't you
holding states accountable for teach-
ing it?' The answer to that is we are
not ready for it yet."
At the same time, several of ESSA's other provisions will serve as
incentives for schools to consider
"the whole child" as they comply
with the law, said Shriver, who is
also the co-chair of the Aspen Institute's Commission on Social Emotional and Academic Development.
In addition to traditional measures
of success like student test scores,
ESSA requires states to use at least
one additional "indicator of school
quality or student success," such as
measures of student engagement or
access to advanced coursework.
The law gave states broad latitude in which factors they selected,
requiring that those measures allow
for "meaningful differentiation in
school performance" and are "valid,
reliable, comparable, and statewide."
Schools must also be able to disaggregate data related to that indicator to show how it affects students in different groups, such as
racial and ethnic groups and students with disabilities.
After Education Week reported
on early drafts of the law in 2015,
a flurry of policy watchers and district leaders who had experimented
with measuring social-emotional
learning wondered if its inclusion
as a school quality indicator would
give schools an incentive to meaningfully integrate it into their work.
Many pointed to a group of large
California districts that had worked
under a 2013 waiver from the previous federal education law, No Child
Left Behind, to include social-emotional learning survey results in a
complicated system they designed to
measure school quality.
Leaders of that effort said the
data would serve as a "flashlight,
not a hammer," meant to identify
and spread successful school strategies. They committed to tweaking
social-emotional learning measures
as researchers perfected them.
And there's a public interest in
broader accountability as well.
In an annual poll released by Phi
Delta Kappa International in August, 8 in 10 respondents rated "the
extent to which schools help students develop interpersonal skills,
such as cooperation, respect, and
persistence," as extremely or very
important in school quality.
But some researchers who've popularized social-emotional learning
also said measures of that work are
prone to biases that make them unreliable for accountability purposes.
Currently, "perfectly unbiased,
unfakeable, and error-free measures
are an ideal, not a reality," researchers Angela Duckworth and David
Yeager wrote in a 2015 essay published in Educational Researcher.
Not Ready for 'Prime Time'
States appear to have responded
to those concerns.
Louisiana State Superintendent
John White said social-emotional
learning, growth mindsets, and
other non-cognitive factors weren't
considered for Louisiana's new accountability plan under ESSA.
"The instruments for measuring are not ready for prime time,"
he said, "but that's not to say that
[social-emotional learning] doesn't
have value in schools."
An Education Week analysis of
state ESSA plans-including those
that have not yet been approved
by the Education Department-
found that most opted to rely on
data many districts already collect
in their accountability systems.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia chose to include
a measure of chronic absenteeism
in their plans. Six chose to include
school climate surveys-which ask
students questions about how safe
and supported they feel at school.
A better measure of social-emotional learning "could very well be
developed in the future," and states
could revise their plans to include
it, said Deborah Temkin, the education research director for Child
Trends, a non-profit research organization that focuses on children.
For now, schools may be motivated
to use some social-emotional strategies, like teaching students how to
resolve conflicts and manage their
emotions, to meet other non-academic goals and to improve academic
achievement. And those strategies
could help decrease chronic absenteeism by promoting self-discipline and
reducing situations that make students feel unsafe at school, she said.
ESSA also increases schools' reporting requirements in areas like bullying and discipline, which can both be
affected by a "whole child" approach,
Roger Weissberg, a professor of psychology and education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and CASEL's
chief knowledge officer, said a group of
THE FUTURE OF WORK
20 states that are cooperating to explore social-emotional-learning plans
largely favor allowing districts to select and design their own measures
to ensure they fit into their strategies.
Some districts, for example, have adopted grade-by-grade standards that
outline how to incorporate students'
social and emotional development into
classroom work. In those districts, student surveys can help teachers track
if their strategies are working on a
broader level, but they aren't used for
"First and foremost, measurements have got to be meaningful to
the teachers and the kids and families," Weissberg said.
CASEL also has a measurement
working group, which asks researchers and educators to tackle
the challenges associated with
measuring non-cognitive skills and
to experiment with creative alternatives, like video games that track
Shriver said he's confident schools
will continue to express interest in
approaches that recognize the value
of social and emotional development,
regardless of state and federal policies.
"This horse is out of the barn," he
said. "It's policymakers who are trying to catch up."
Assistant Managing Editor Lesli A.
Maxwell contributed to this report.
Coverage of social and emotional
learning is supported in part by a grant
from the NoVo Foundation, at www.
novofoundation.org. Education Week
retains sole editorial control over the
content of this coverage.
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