Cultivating Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

What's New

New research suggests that providing equitable educational opportunities to all students requires, in part, supporting equitable opportunities for high-quality social-emotional development in schools. Specifically, research finds that, “focusing only on the content of instruction and students’ tested achievement is insufficient to achieve considerable improvements in educational outcomes and address issues of equity” and, according to a recent survey from McGraw Hill, 96 percent of school administrators, teachers, and parents believe that social emotional learning (SEL) is just as important as academic learning. Also, about two-thirds of teachers and administrators report they are integrating SEL into school-wide planning initiatives and three-quarters report they devote more time to fostering SEL than they did five years ago. Yet, amid this uptake of and enthusiasm for SEL, two-thirds of teachers say they don’t have enough time to devote to it, and only 22 percent say they feel very prepared to foster their students’ social-emotional development. Efforts to build educators’ capacity for SEL work are growing: the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has partnered with 20 urban school districts across the country, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, and Dallas, to help strategically embed SEL into all aspects of their education systems. The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research released a new synthesis of key learning on social, emotional, and academic development for teachers and principals, and has been working with UChicago Impact to develop and test a survey designed to help educators understand how the learning environments they create contribute to students’ social-emotional development. The philanthropic community is also channeling additional resources toward efforts to foster students’ social-emotional development, with the Allstate Foundation recently committing $45 million to provide direct programming for youth who can most benefit from SEL initiatives.

Why It Matters

A broad consensus is emerging around the importance of social-emotional development for children’s learning at all ages and education levels. Educators now recognize that, “focusing only on the content of instruction and students’ tested achievement is insufficient to achieve considerable improvements in educational outcomes and address issues of equity.” Educators and schools are trying to prepare students for jobs that did not exist a decade ago, and the demands of the 21st century workforce require new sets of skills and capabilities, which emphasize creative problem solving and teamwork. As a result, educators are rethinking their roles, going beyond teaching content and toward the more complex work of creating opportunities for students to develop the learning mindsets and critical competencies they will need throughout their lives. Continuing to invest in and address barriers to equitable access to social-emotional development opportunities will be critical to fostering students’ success in school and in life.