Holding Steady

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by Kevin Gray, President and Chief Content Officer

A recent article published in EdSurge by SEL leaders Robert F. Sherman and Pamela McVeagh-Lally (co-founders of SEL Consulting Collaborative) makes a strong case for why social-emotional learning is necessary for the health and well-being of our students.

a color photo of Kevin GrayThe article dismantles the false premises that much of the anti-SEL rhetoric is founded upon. It also reminds the reader that concepts such as resiliency and strong personal relationships with peers and educators have proven to not only help students’ mental well-being (something many of our students across the grade spans are dealing with as we grapple with year three of the Covid-19 pandemic) but also improve academic outcomes.

SEL principles set our students up for success, which is why SEL programming was a trending topic in the early days of the pandemic (topped only by how to effectively deliver curriculum remotely). Its tenets are derived from extensive research that shows that teaching students these life skills is critical to educating the whole student. As a result, SEL has also been widely adopted by states and districts. Fortunately for students, the authors urge districts and educators to “hold steady.” They point out that SEL adoption is unlikely to be reversed, and the authors helpfully include talking points to counter anti-SEL pushback from those who seek political gain from its reversal.

Publishers and ed tech companies are also holding steady related to state and local pushback against culturally relevant teaching. In a recent discussion with EdWeek MarketBrief report David Rauf, I outline findings from conversations with many of our clients around their commitment to SEL, DEI, and how we reach all students. Like districts and their approach to SEL, educational materials providers recognize the importance of reaching the whole student, and most importantly, of reaching all students. I was encouraged to see a broad commitment to the principles of creating materials in which all students can see themselves and through which they can learn empathy for others.

The next election cycle is likely to increase pressure on districts, educators, and content providers. However, by centering students and by focusing on achievement for all students, educators and educational companies can ensure they are meeting the needs of their most critical users: students.

A related article, How Can Social-Emotional Learning Be Woven Into the School Day?, Market Brief (Herman, M. R. (2022, May 31)) discusses how integrating SEL into academic content can help students connect with material they might otherwise see as irrelevant to their lives.

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