“Sure, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) would be a great addition, but there’s no way to add it to the plate; our teachers already have their hands full with preparing students academically, and there’s no way our board will let us direct resources to anything that doesn’t raise test scores.”
PeeDee Math, Science, and Technology Academy (PDMSTA) describes itself as a school that “implements a strategic educational program that teaches students through an innovative curriculum.”
When PDMSTA Director Keith Bailey recognized that the best strategy to strengthen student behavior, respect and responsibility was by doubling down on their social and emotional learning curriculum, he made the difficult but important decision to allocate his very limited personnel budget to this priority, staffing out a new Director of SEL position, occupied now by an experienced outdoor and experiential educator, Aimee Cox-King.
Then, at the ASCD Annual Conference, Keith set out to find an assessment system for his SEL initiatives. He was targeting a system that could inform their school-wide priorities, provide valid and reliable information about their individual students, and deliver them resources for enhancing SEL instruction and programming. He found and selected ProExam Tessera as his complete solution to meet those needs.
Snow doesn’t slow down Salt Lake City, and it certainly puts no damper on that school district’s commitment to social and emotional learning (SEL). Over the course of two snowy days last week, I visited several classrooms in a middle and high school, and met with a group of teachers who are teaching a fast-expanding course in social and emotional learning they are calling “Techniques for Tough Times” (TTT), coauthored by Leigh VandenAkker and Gayle Threet.
The teachers with whom I met (all of whom are using the Tessera SEL assessment system developed by ProExam as part of their program) made a great impression on my colleagues and me. They are deeply committed to this program; one of them, a former school counselor, enrolled in a graduate program and earned his master’s degree in teaching solely for the purpose of earning the qualification necessary to teach this particular course. They were connected with their students, innovative in their methods and reflective about their practice.
“Clamoring! My students were clamoring for their Tessera results. Immediately after they took the assessment they asked how soon they could get their results, and they bugged me frequently about when they would become available.”
So says Eve Rifkin, the Director of College Access at a high school serving a demographically representative student population in downtown Tucson, Arizona. She teaches a required and universal college and career readiness class to seniors every year, and this year is excited to be using Tessera as an important part of her program.
Why? Rifkin explains that students tell her that they were seeking the affirmation that positive results might provide them, affirmation of strengths they believe they have and will be pleased to see confirmed. But more than that, they are eager for feedback and greater self-awareness of who they are as persons, as opposed to how high they achieve in mathematics and reading. “This is such a contrast to what they are used to; this is about who they are as humans.”
Photo by NEC Corporation of America with Creative Commons license.
A whole child education demands a strong focus upon and increased accountability for social and emotional learning, it is argued in an important new report in the ASCD Policy Priorities newsletter entitled “A Bright Future with SEL:”
Decades of research argue that students need a balance of academic and social and emotional competencies for success in college, careers, and life.
Policymakers and practitioners are now discussing the best resources, tools, and supports for embedding SEL across pre-K–12 schooling.
The piece rightfully acknowledges that the facts on the ground—the recognition of the importance of social and emotional learning—are not new at all. However, they are coming into much greater prominence in the national conversation because of ESSA, the new federal law which “requires multiple measures for accountability, including at least one nonacademic indicator, generally understood to be an SEL measure, such as student engagement, educator engagement, and school climate and safety.”
Europe needs more and better social and emotional learning (SEL) and SEL assessment throughout its educational system. This is the conclusion of a recent OECD report, “Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social Emotional Skills.”
Elsewhere in this blog series we’ve laid out the demand for these measures in the US context, but today we look globally and to Europe more particularly, against the backdrop of the upcoming E-ATP conference in Lisbon where our colleagues Dr. Rich Roberts and Simmy Ziv-el will be making presentations related to noncognitive assessments.
Noncognitive skills are an ongoing hot topic in education, and for good reason—there is an extraordinary movement of renewed emphasis upon social and emotional learning (SEL), the kind of learning that research has well established is essential for all kids.
However, much is being missed in the national conversation about this subject. Researchers in university departments of psychology and educational assessment, as well as scientists at various measurement companies, have been industriously innovating, developing evidence-based systems by which we can effectively student character strengths and noncognitive skills. These new systems overcome the faking, subjectivity, and reference bias problems that plague “first generation” measurement methods.
In sharing a series of posts over the past several weeks about the rising demand for social emotional learning (SEL) measurement and noncognitive skills assessment, we noted that new methods are emerging for doing it effectively.
Still, some are wondering what a typical (or atypical) school or district would do with the data and reports they received after administering such an assessment to their students?
Because noncognitive assessment is still so new to schools, one answer to this question is we don’t yet know. We anticipate that five years from now we may be astounded by the diverse and innovative ways in which educators wield what we believe will be a powerful and creative tool.
Nevertheless, we can speculate about how measuring and assessing noncognitive skills and character strengths might valuably assist educators, both in bolstering students’ social and emotional skills and elevating their academic skills and traditional test scores.
Can we grow grit in ourselves and others? And if so, how best might we do so?
Since grit grew to great heights of public awareness in the early 2010s thanks to a combination of magazine articles, best-selling books and TED talks, its significance has preoccupied many educators. Dr. Angela Duckworth’s research struck a nerve, secured her a MacArthur genius grant and launched a million conversations across the nation.