For Immediate Release: January 24, 2019
Contact: Renee Rybak Lang, renee.lang@nasbe.org 703-740-4841

Addressing Teachers’ Social and Emotional Learning Is Key to Comprehensive SEL Implementation

Alexandria, VA – Spurred by research showing the gains students realize from school-based social and emotional learning (SEL), states are adopting policies that support districts in implementing, sustaining, and spreading it. But to ensure long-term, systemwide gains for students, states must also address the SEL needs of teachers. To meet this challenge, states like California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington are empowering school leaders and educators through “adult SEL” initiatives.

In a new NASBE analysis, author Don Long writes that implementing classroom SEL initiatives can be challenging, especially when “stresses associated with a lack of classroom support, poor working conditions, and inadequate pay and compensation greatly diminish teachers’ capacity to cultivate and model SEL themselves.” School leaders that prioritize educators’ well-being and help them advance professionally can improve students’ SEL skills and promote higher student achievement.

Washington’s Compassionate Schools Initiative seeks to improve student outcomes through compassionate teaching and a focus on student physical and mental well-being. It prioritizes educator training on equity, cultural relevance, trauma-induced stress, and adult SEL, and it emphasizes school leader development in supporting teacher self-care and well-being. 

Illinois, the first state to develop and adopt K-12 SEL standards, designed its principal preparation programs to ensure that leaders can meet their schools’ evolving needs. The state’s leadership coaching and mentoring model focuses on improving instruction, including by helping teachers integrate SEL in the classroom.

California’s statewide SEL initiative focuses on supporting district-level systemic change and diverse, inclusive leadership teams. State guidelines encourage school leaders to build SEL capacity for adults through “an intentional focus on relationship-centered learning environments.”

Massachusetts’ Trauma Sensitive Schools program advocates for a “whole-school” approach and views teachers’ well-being as fundamental to a school’s success. The program prioritizes school culture and infrastructure, staff training, and links to mental health professionals for consultations. The state’s professional development standards require learning experiences to be culturally proficient and grounded in strong SEL practice.

State boards of education play an important role in supporting adult SEL, both in embedding it within school leadership policies at all points of the principal pipeline and by building statewide consensus on the importance of supporting the SEL of teachers and staff, writes Long.

Read School Leaders’ Role in Empowering Teachers through SEL.

For 60 years, NASBE has served as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.

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