Although structured social-emotional learning (SEL) has been around since the mid-90s, schools’ focus on SEL has skyrocketed following the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on education. As remote learning exacerbated feelings of isolation and uncertainty, and behavioral and mental health issues emerged, many educators shifted away from attainment goals to helping students cope and connect in an environment that suddenly lacked regular social interactions, academic expectations and daily structure. SEL then became a foundational piece of the return to in-person learning and, by many accounts, remains an integral part of student needs a year into post-shut down recovery.
According to a report from Tyton Partners and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), district spending on SEL programming between the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years grew from $530 million to $765 million. SEL also received a $160 million funding boost in the FY2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act earlier this year. Educators are investing in SEL on an individual level, too. Based on data from DonorsChoose, reports indicate that donation requests for supplies that help students develop SEL skills and improve mental health have almost doubled since 2020.
While SEL and mental health initiatives are different, when delivered as part of a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), SEL can play a significant role in promoting responsive relationships, emotionally safe environments and skills development that improve or mitigate mental health issues. In fact, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that SEL screening instruments can be used to both help standardize the identification of anxiety concerns and help facilitate early intervention.
As more districts integrate SEL into their curricula and expand SEL practices into their secondary schools, the collection and management of such data play an essential role in measuring student progress and program efficacy. That’s especially important because, as the Tyton Partners/CASEL report notes, quality in the SEL marketplace may not keep pace with demand. And overarchingly, an easily navigable student data insights platform gives educators more time to focus on how they’re incorporating SEL in their classrooms.
Visualizing data improves SEL strategies
SEL should not exist in a vacuum. It serves as a component of MTSS. Your data platform should allow educators to not only track and record SEL elements alongside academic performance, attendance, and behavior, but to also to visualize them side-by-side within a single report. Each of these factors individually and collectively will influence students’ social and emotional well-being. A complete portrait of a student, instead of a corner of the picture, gives educators the context they need to assign or adjust learning and supports across all areas of a student’s life.
Next, your platform should allow educators to drill into the details, preferably in one place, given the vast array of available SEL tools. Some tools may be free, while others come at a cost or as part of a larger assessment suite. A data insights platform flexible enough to gather information from all your SEL tools via integration, file upload or manual score entry broadens context while saving educators valuable time.
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