A group of students, including K-12 English learners, walk hand-in-hand with their teacher.

Survey shows SEL is critical for K-12 English learners

Here's what teachers and administrators say about K-12 English learners in their districts

Most teachers of K-12 English learners say their students have lots of academic potential, but social and emotional obstacles could potentially stall these students’ progress, according to the English Learners Report from McGraw-Hill.

Seventy-five percent of surveyed teachers and 85 percent of surveyed administrators say they are optimistic that K-12 English learners can achieve academic success. A majority of both educator groups also believe English learner instruction contributes to their students’ improved academic language performance and overall English proficiency.

The research underscores the growing importance social and emotional learning (SEL) have in classrooms. SEL, while not a core curriculum subject, is frequently considered another essential part of learning because it helps students regulate their own emotions and learn how to respond to social situations and challenges.

Read more: How SEL inspired a transformation in my school

Despite challenges, a majority of educators believe their school or district provides sufficient ongoing professional development opportunities to hone their skills, which improves their ability to teach.

Seven out of 10 teachers agree their school or district provides sufficient, ongoing professional development to support K-12 English learners’ success, an increase from 55 percent in the 2017 iteration of this survey. Also, 76 percent agreed in 2018 that the training provided by their school or district improves their ability to teach English learners.

Both teachers (51 percent) and administrators (55 percent) agree that they have seen an increase in English learner resources made available to them over the past five years, indicating that English learner instruction is becoming an increasing priority.

Teachers and administrators say adaptive tools and interactive instructional approaches seem most effective for teaching English learners.

Interactive classroom games and collaborative group work as the most effective approach to instruction, they said, and both teachers and administrators say they find adaptive learning technologies to be the most effective resources when they teach English learners.

The most prominent obstacles for K-12 English learners

According to the survey, educators see a clear link between K-12 English learners’ social and emotional well-being and their ability to succeed academically.

Seventy-seven percent of teachers and 81 percent of administrators agree that social and emotional learning challenges, such as trauma or the inability to communicate with other students, present a somewhat or extremely significant obstacle to effective English learner instruction.

Both teachers (70 percent) and administrators (67 percent) say a lack of family and community support is the second biggest obstacle to effective English learner instruction.

Read more: Supporting English learners with social and emotional learning

While teachers call out “anxiety surrounding the political climate” as the third-most important obstacle to effectively teaching K-12 English learners (66 percent), administrators identify “student reluctance to participate” (60 percent).

Sixty-nine percent of administrators and 65 percent of teachers report that conversations about immigration affect their school/classroom environment, and noted that discussions around immigration were more prevalent than those about other social issues, including healthcare, climate change, and gun violence.

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Laura Ascione

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