The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network has committed to measuring and improving six academic outcomes to support student success, from kindergarten readiness to postsecondary completion. Underlying each of these concrete outcomes is an equally important but more elusive concept: social-emotional learning.
Social-emotional learning has been a challenging area for the Network for a variety of reasons. There are many social-emotional learning competencies — how does a community choose which ones to focus on? Few reliable and valid assessments exist to measure competencies — how does a community develop or choose one? Stakeholders must align to improve students’ social-emotional learning — how can a consensus be reached?
To begin to tackle these questions, StriveTogether, in partnership with Transforming Education and Student Success Network, facilitated a day-and-a-half Social-Emotional Learning Expert Convening in San Antonio February 27-28 with eight partnerships from across the Network. Here are a few insights from the event:
- Social-emotional learning is a strong predictor of future success. Mindsets, essential skills and habits (MESH) can predict academic success, career success and overall health and well-being. Students with strong MESH have greater academic achievement during their K-12 and college career, and higher MESH predicts a greater likelihood of being employed. Additionally, there is a positive association between strong MESH and reduced mortality as well as lower rates of obesity, substance abuse and mental health disorders.
- Communities need to identify an agreed-upon set of social-emotional competencies. To develop supports that have the most effective impact, it is important to understand students’ social-emotional strengths and opportunities for growth. But first, a community needs to determine which competencies to focus on. Transforming Education, an organization that supports schools and communities in their work to improve social-emotional learning, helped one district identify four competencies to measure by filtering them through the 3Ms: Are the competencies meaningful, measurable and malleable? Many of the partnerships that attended the expert convening currently focus on the CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) competencies (self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness).
- Validated measures for social-emotional learning are important but challenging to find or design. In one district, Transforming Education developed a self-report survey for students that has a high level of reliability and can be used across grade levels and sub-groups. Student Success Network supports organizations aligned around the importance of social-emotional learning and has developed a self-report for students that combines several different frameworks. One insight from both organizations is that designing a valid assessment is an iterative process and a task that develops and adapts over time.
- Communities must align on action that embeds equity. Participants had the opportunity to take what they learned from Transforming Education and Student Success Network and apply it to an equity framework. By considering the perceptions, beliefs and prejudices held by community members and practitioners around students’ social-emotional learning, they developed strategies to target the , system structures, patterns of behavior and events that impact student success and determine who needed to be included in their action plans to move the work forward.
The Social-Emotional Learning Expert Convening kicked off what will be a long, rewarding journey into this component of student success. Communities represented included Cincinnati, OH and Newport & Covington, KY (StrivePartnership), Marin County, CA (Marin Promise), Lenawee County, MI (Lenawee Cradle to Career), Northfield, MN (Northfield Promise), Bellevue, WA (Eastside Pathways), Memphis, TN (Seeding Success), Bexar County, TX (P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County) and Norwalk, CT (Norwalk ACTS). All participants are fired up to improve community outcomes, both academic and social-emotional, to support children on their paths from cradle to career.