Social-Emotional Learning for Children & Youth in Schools1 Comment
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) describes Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as the process through which children and adults acquire and apply the skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. Extensive research demonstrates that school-based SEL programs can promote and enhance students’ connection to school, positive behavior and academic achievement.
During the 2020 General Assembly Session, Delegate Sam Rasoul introduced House Bill 753 that requires the Virginia Department of Education to establish a uniformed definition of SEL and to develop standards and guidance for SEL for all public students in kindergarten through grade twelve. These standards must be made available to each local school division no later than July 1, 2021 with a report to be issued no later than November 1, 2021 on the resources needed in order to successfully support local divisions in the statewide implementation of a SEL program.
Virginia’s Proposed SEL Standards
The Virginia K-12 SEL Standards currently consist of five overarching competencies that provide clarity on the desired outcomes for SEL: self awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and decision-making. Concepts related to each competency include critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, citizenship and communication.
As with academic Standards of Learning, the proposed SEL Standards outline the skills identified for each grade band to demonstrate the desired outcome under each overarching concept. The proposed Standards are intended to be developmentally appropriate based on grade-level and to build on concepts mastered in previous grades.
As an example of the language in the standards, the proposed standards for those in 11th & 12th grades include:
- Self-Management: I can demonstrate the ability to reframe challenging situations from a strengths-based and/or growth mindset perspective.
- Social Awareness: I can recognize, describe and distinguish inequity and injustice at different levels of society.
- Relationship Skills: I can identify ways to navigate unhealthy relationships.
- Decision Making: I can make constructive choices by considering the personal, interpersonal, and community impacts of my choices.
These Standards are intended to help educators and school personnel better support children’s social and emotional development at all ages. They include opportunities to address unconscious bias, mental health and conflict in age-appropriate ways. These standards represent important steps to make social-emotional competencies as important as academic competencies and to help all students succeed in the real world. However, this shift will take some additional resources to help prepare teachers, to provide the appropriate staff levels to support teachers in implementing these standards and to help schools create a climate where these standards are in concert with school practices.
To further implement these standards, local school divisions should consider:
- Funding for teacher training and preparation to implement standards
- Hiring specialized support staff with additional state funds to meet new staff levels
- Implementing school-wide practices such as multi-tiered supports and restorative justice.
Earlier in May, the standards were posted for review and public comment on the Virginia Town Hall Comment Forum.
TAKE ACTION: Review the standards, provide any comments by May 26, 2021 and start discussions with local school leaders about what steps are needed to implement these standards.
If you are having conversations with local school division leaders for how to use American Rescue Plan funds or additional state funds, encourage them to consider the necessary investments that should be made to implement the proposed SEL standards and how school climates can best support students.