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NASBE Survey Finds Support for Advancing Social, Emotional, and Academic Development in Schools

For Immediate Release: April 18, 2019
Contact: Renee Rybak Lang,, 703-740-4841

NASBE Survey Finds Support for Advancing Social, Emotional, and Academic Development in Schools

Alexandria, VA – According to new survey research from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), influential stakeholders view social and emotional learning (SEL) favorably and are primed for conversations with state boards of education working to advance SEL policies. While most community influencers agree that SEL can produce many benefits, they also expressed reservations around standards, teacher support, and labeling of students, the survey finds.

To help state boards of education and other policymakers learn how to communicate most effectively on policies related to SEL, NASBE commissioned Edge Research to conduct a survey of community influ­encers in Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, and Washington to gauge their understanding of SEL and their support for embedding SEL in K-12 instruction. These five states were part of a state network convened by NASBE in 2018 to examine the successes and challenges of implementing SEL through state education systems and develop state policies that fit local contexts.

“Successful implementation of policies and standards depends on clear communication with the public and an understanding of the importance of SEL among key constituencies,” says President and CEO Robert Hull. “This study sheds light on what resonates most with those constituencies.”

The study identifies lessons for state board members as they communicate about SEL skill building and policy development:

  • Community influencers can be motivated supporters of SEL, especially when it connects with other policy issues they hold dear. While six in ten say “social and emotional learning” is a priority for schools, some components of SEL rank higher: academics (83 percent), students’ safety and security (79 percent), and preparation for the real world (76 percent). Highlighting the interconnectedness of these issues can be a powerful tool.
  • The terms “social, emotional, and academic development” (25 percent prefer from a list of 8-10 terms) and “life skills” (23 percent prefer) rally support with community influencers more effectively than does social and emotional learning (just 4 percent prefer). The label “21st century skills” has the strongest unfavorable rating, with roughly one-third of respondents disliking the term.
  • State boards should be ready to address concerns about evaluation, labeling, teacher training, and capacity. More than half of respondents are swayed by messages that suggest SEL places more burden on already overworked teachers (55 percent) and a perceived danger of student labeling, with 59 percent worrying that students will be judged or graded on their feelings.
  • How policymakers talk about SEL mat­ters. Couching policy priorities in “teaching real-world skills” (91 percent agree, reason to reinforce SEL in schools) and “making sure all children develop the social, emotional, and academic skills they need to succeed in life” (87 percent), and tying in a message of equity, resonates best with this audience.
  • Community influencers are open to state board leadership on SEL. About half of respondents were somewhat or very familiar with their state board. Six in ten trust state boards to ensure that local public schools are developing students’ social and emotional skills, more than the governor (44 percent) or other elected officials (40 percent).
  • Community groups like Boys & Girls Clubs, parent groups such as PTA, and faith-based groups are natural allies in carrying messages about SEL. Community influencers aged 18–24 are an important constituency as well. These recent students and up-and-coming parents are consistently more informed and engaged on this topic.

 “State board members recognize the inextricable connection of social and emotional well-being to academic success. As well-respected state policymakers, it is important that they be well equipped to advance state-specific SEL goals,” says NASBE President and CEO Robert Hull.

Read and share the policy update “Gauging Support for Social and Emotional Skill Building in School,” and find the full survey results here. Join us for a webinar today at 12:30 pm (ET) as we discuss the findings in depth.

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




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