In light of tragic events that have put a spotlight on school safety issues, it’s more important than ever to understand the value of students’ social and emotional learning (SEL). While many districts have started conversations about SEL and its correlation to student success, it’s time to start acting.

The majority of students face daunting socioeconomic and emotional pressures. An alarmingly high number of students experience trauma at home, and their attitudes towards learning can vary due to these outside factors. In fact, studies show that up to 60 percent of all high school students are “chronically disengaged” from their own learning.

Our constantly evolving digital world is another factor that plays into student achievement. Cyberbullying has become more and more common, and a remarkable 20 percent of middle school students reported seriously contemplating suicide in a survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center. Although these statistics are frightening, districts are finding ways to implement support into curriculum to avoid these and other tragedies.

How can SEL help?
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and 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.

In practice, teaching SEL involves fostering students’ analytical, communication, and collaborative skills through a combination of direct instruction and student-centered learning.

The short-term benefits include not only a safer and more inclusive school environment, but also improved academic performance. Students who have mastered SEL competencies achieve better grades, are more engaged in learning and in the school community, and tend to avoid risky behaviors.

About the Author:

Abram Jimenez, Ed.D., serves as vice president of Illuminate Education and works with district leadership teams across the country to develop ways to ensure equitable outcomes for all students. Prior to joining Illuminate Education, Dr. Jimenez served as chief of schools in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), where he provided supervision and support to the local area assistant superintendents and 142 schools. As a senior district leader and executive critical cabinet member building coherence, Dr. Jimenez led the district-wide implementation of SFUSD’s strategic plan and supported the district’s theory of action that lead to continuous improvement.