- Students’ reports of whether they have developed a growth mindset continue to climb steadily throughout their K-12 years, but their assessments of their social awareness skills and feelings of self-efficacy drop sharply beginning in middle school, according to a recent analysis of the results of a social-emotional learning (SEL) survey that the California Office for Reform Education (CORE) administered to its more than 1 million students attending eight urban school systems.
- The brief, from Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), a think tank, also shows that girls generally report higher self-management and social awareness skills than boys, and that students from low-income families have lower assessments of their SEL skills than more advantaged students — but the gaps narrow during the high school years.
- The researchers also found differences in students’ self-reports by race and ethnicity, but again these gaps begin to reduce around 10th grade. They suggest that understanding how students’ SEL skills vary by subgroup and at different grade levels can help policymakers and educators determine when intervention or additional support is needed.
As the conversation grows over how to measure SEL among students grows, gathering their own perspectives is an important part of the picture. States are also beginning to include student surveys as one piece of their accountability plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
An earlier paper from PACE notes that there is “growing confidence” that schools can contribute to the development of students’ social and emotional skills and that SEL and school culture and climate outcomes can also predict performance in academic areas, such as math scores, graduation rates and English learners’ proficiency in English. Because including such measures in accountability systems is new territory for most states, the PACE researchers note that it’s important to learn from the CORE districts — which received a No Child Left Behind waiver to develop their own accountability and improvement system.
The researchers note that while the SEL survey can show which schools have students with higher-than-average responses and which schools have lower-than-average results, the differences across schools don’t vary enough to be especially useful. Education researchers also don’t know enough about what students are thinking when they answer these kinds of survey questions about themselves, they add. Finally, it’s unclear how educators might try to “game” the results if they are being used as part of an accountability system. Even so, the researchers conclude that when combined with other measures of school performance, SEL and school climate surveys “may inform a broader understanding of a school’s strengths and weaknesses and prompt action on a new dimension.”