Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children
Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children


“We know from human history and the latest learning science that success comes from the combination of academic knowledge and the ability to work with others. We need public education to reflect this broader definition of success, and this commission is well positioned to point the way.”
– Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute



From pre-K to 12th grade, having strong social and emotional learning (SEL) skills — such as listening, working well with others, and delaying gratification — is a crucial ingredient for long-term success.

To provide more information and leadership, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has launched a new webpage called Social and Emotional Learning in Massachusetts.

This builds on the work done last year when Massachusetts released its own social and emotional learning standards for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten — the result of a collaboration between the Department of Early Education and Care, DESE, and the University of Massachusetts – Boston.

DESE’s definition of social and emotional learning, comes from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which says, “SEL is the process of developing students’ and adults’ social and emotional competencies—the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that individuals need to make successful choices.”

DESE’s webpage lists the five core competencies of SEL, which are:

• self awareness

• self management

• social awareness

• relationship skills, and

• responsible decision making

The webpage also includes links to:

• pre-K standards

• guidelines on implementing SEL, and

• a guidebook about inclusive practices

The site includes a link to information that was shared last spring with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, including resources from the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy. (Strategies for Children serves on the advisory committee for Rennie’s annual Condition of Education report, which focused on SEL in 2016).

There’s also action on the national stage. Last month, the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit think tank, launched a unique cross-sector initiative – the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.

“The commission will advance a new vision for what constitutes success in schools: the full integration of social, emotional and academic development to ensure every student is prepared to thrive in school and in life.” The commission will release a “Report to the Nation” in late 2018.

For now, though, we’ll end with the words of two of the commission’s co-chairs. One is Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute, who told EdSource:

“Students with greater social and emotional competency are better prepared for life… They understand themselves better, they work with peers more easily, and they do better in class. These ideas must become a fundamental part of American education.”

And in a press release, former Michigan Governor John Engler, the president of the Business Roundtable, said, “Businesses need well-rounded employees who can work as part of a team and think critically and creatively. Technical knowledge alone is not sufficient to prepare students for the dynamic 21st century economy.”