- Almost all principals agree that it’s important for schools to promote and teach social-emotional skills and that all students can benefit from social-emotional learning (SEL) programs, according to a new survey conducted by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), in collaboration with Hart Research Associates.
- They widely agree that SEL can contribute to a positive school climate, improve relationships between students and teachers, decrease bullying, prepare students for careers, improve academic performance and increase graduation rates.
- The findings, based on the responses of 884 Pre-K to 12 public school principals and interviews with district leaders, also show that only about a third of principals say they have a plan for teaching and systematically implementing SEL throughout their school, and only about a quarter of them said they could be considered “high implementers” of SEL based on CASEL’s benchmarks.
The survey provides further insight into the efforts school leaders across the country are taking to move from talking about the importance of SEL to following through with having programs in place. About three-fourths of the respondents said that their district strongly emphasizes SEL programs for students, but only about 40 said they are required to have a clear plan for implementation. School-level plans were also more likely in districts with strong central office support of SEL.
Schools considering themselves high implementers are more likely to involve teachers as well as “out-of-school stakeholders” in SEL efforts. Some 60% of principals say their teachers need more training in how to implement SEL as well as access to effective strategies. As with most school change efforts, principals also cited a lack of time and dedicated funding as barriers to integrating SEL into the school day.
The survey also asked principals about assessing SEL skills, which has received recent attention with the initial results of CASEL’s assessment design challenge. Close to three-quarters of principals agree that SEL skills can be accurately measured, but less than 20% said they were very or fairly familiar with current assessment models. In addition, less than a quarter of principals overall said they were assessing students in these areas.
The report recommends that policymakers and funders prioritize SEL training, implementation and assessment in schools, support the development of SEL standards at the state level and continue research on topics such as the links between SEL and academic achievement. They also call for increasing training for pre-service teachers on SEL as well as professional development for teachers already in the classroom.