Social Emotional Learning: Essential to a Well-rounded Education

September 2018 – Education Commission

California State PTA believes that social and emotional learning is an essential part of a well-rounded, quality education.

Consistent with the work of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), California State PTA defines social and emotional learning (SEL) as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to:

  • understand and manage emotions,
  • set and achieve positive goals,
  • feel and show empathy for others,
  • establish and maintain positive relationships, and
  • make responsible decisions.

California State PTA believes that social and emotional learning needs to be well integrated into what children experience in schools and classrooms and doing so increases student well-being and academic achievement.  Evidence shows that those positive life outcomes persist over time in all socioeconomic and racial groups.

California State PTA supports California’s Social and Emotional Learning Guiding Principles as adopted by the California Department of Education in 2018. Social and emotional learning is best and most effective when the educational community adopts whole child development as the goal of education, commits to equity, intentionally builds capacity in both students and adults, meaningfully partners with families and community, and adopts a “learn and improve” approach.

Adopt Whole Child Development as the Goal of Education

California State PTA believes schools, families and communities need to support a systematic approach to social emotional learning as follows.

  • All education and youth development systems and programs should embed and promote SEL in their policies, practices, curricula, staffing, budgets, strategic plans and vision statements.
  • Systems change is most effective when leadership teams include educators, students, family, and community members of varied gender, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Students and adults should have opportunities to practice, demonstrate, and reinforce social and emotional skills within the context of supportive relationships.
  • Schools need to align their discipline policies with the promotion of students’ social and emotional growth, as opposed to punishment and exclusion.
  • Because SEL and school climate are interrelated and reciprocal, building positive school climate and culture is supported through strong social and emotional skills.

 Commit to Equity

California State PTA believes that schools should build on the existing strengths of student, educators, families, and communities. An assets-based education is personalized, culturally relevant and responsive, and intentionally addresses racism and bias. Appropriate practices include:

  • Providing SEL-building opportunities to all students, not limited by race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language, socioeconomic status, documentation status, and/or zip code.
  • Recruiting and developing an educator workforce that is representative of, and can connect to, the student community.
  • Engaging diverse student and parent voices in decision making and improvement efforts.
  • Providing educational experiences that counteract the institutional and structural biases and related traumas that often drive inequitable outcomes for students.

Build Capacity

California State PTA believes that every student and adult in the school community must feel they belong, have value, and have a network of caring peers to rely on. To that end, schools need to intentionally focus on relationship-centered learning environments.

To cultivate core social and emotional competencies in students and adults, school communities need to create and promote common definitions of those competencies and agree on ways to measure progress in developing them.

California State PTA believes it is particularly important that all who interact with children and youth, whether in school, at home or in the community, have resources and time to work on their own social emotional development and personal growth strategies. For educators in particular, this should include addressing bias in both pre-service training and ongoing professional development.

Partner with Families and Community

California State PTA believes maximizing the resources of the entire school community advances SEL and student well being. In particular, meaningful family engagement provides opportunities for parents and caregivers to contribute and participate in their child’s learning, building mutually beneficial relationships between home and school.

Establishing expanded learning programs across settings such as early learning and care, after school, and summer can increase shared responsibility for positive student outcomes, as can partnerships with community-based organizations and local stakeholders .

Learn and Improve

California State PTA believes in using data to continuously inform improvement of instructional and school practices and using evidence to guide decision making related to students’ social and emotional learning opportunities.

The integration of SEL to promote equity and address the needs of the whole child, and of educators, is already supported in many current California policies, including the Local Control and Accountability Plan.

California State PTA, and its districts, councils and units, should help make sure that SEL and school climate are meaningfully included in the development of LCAP goals and in family and community stakeholder engagement processes. Continuously refining SEL goals and practices to meet the unique needs of each community will be integral to the achievement of social and emotional competencies.

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