Over the years, I have seen fads come and go in our field. I would argue that the evidence is there and the time is right to tackle the "jingle jangle jungle" of social and emotional factors Kate blogged about last week.
Now is the right time to undertake an initiative aimed at making a difference in how we think about, assess, and work to improve policy and practice based on these factors.
- Move social and emotional factors into the mainstream of what we seek for our youth.
- Expand how we seek to close gaps.
- Change how we assess what is important for youth to succeed.
- Change how we focus our efforts on the learning and development of our young people -- not only on tests but in school, life, college, careers and as citizens.
Social and emotional factors provide a possible strategy to address educational and health disparities here in Minnesota, where our high averages but very large disparities are simply intolerable. Such visibility helps a strategy get attention in new ways. This opens the door to exploring new possibilities - even ones that may have been known for a long time.
There is a desire for impact approaches that use multi-sector partnerships and data to drive improvement and sustainable change. In the Twin Cities and all around the country there are a variety of cradle-to-career, educational pipeline efforts that are looking to identify new strategies that can make a difference, such as Ready by 21, Strive and Generation Next.
These visible, collective efforts are proactively looking for new strategies and have identified the need for a way to better support and advance social and emotional factors as part of their data-driven solutions. At a national level this has lead to the creation of a task force and major set of reports to be released shortly on how communities can define and measure social and emotional or so called "non-cognitive "factors. Our own Paul Mattessich from Wilder Research and Kent Pekel from Search Institute serve on that task force.
In order for a wave to get started and be sustained, there must be credible evidence that these factors, and strategies to improve them, can and do make a difference in addressing the issues of concern. This factor can best be seen in the number of reports cited in last week's blog by Kate as well as the book on How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. Ideally, as an issue or problem becomes visible the credible evidence for the strategy is also growing. These factors come to re-enforce each other to build momentum. This is currently happening in this area.
If a strategy sounds good but is not seen as something that we can and should be doing with our children, it is unlikely to catch on. There is now considerable evidence that social and emotional factors not only matter but they are changeable through intentional efforts (for CASEL reports as an example) by parents, schools and community programs.
In addition, the results are measurable. The "jungle" of measures out there makes it clear that these factors can and should be routinely assessed as a way of supporting learning and development in the classroom and in community learning opportunities.
Because of the visibility, credibility and do-ability of social and emotional learning I believe this is a wave that can become a sustained movement that makes a difference -- not just another fad that crashes on the rocky shores of educational disparities.
Do you agree that the time is right? What do you think about these factors in the social and emotional jungle we face?