National Commission Listens, Learns on Visit to Cleveland
During the National Commission’s recent convening in Cleveland, commissioners met with educators, students, policymakers, and community members to learn how Cleveland is integrating social, emotional, and academic development across its schools and programs.
The district’s Humanware initiative helps students manage their emotions so they are better able to work with peers and succeed in and outside of school. As part of this community-wide effort, Cleveland’s schools have reframed their curricula, student services, and teacher professional development to holistically support students. Cleveland students participate in school climate surveys and advisory committees that share feedback with school and district leaders. They also benefit from school-based student support teams, constructive alternatives to in-school suspension, and opportunities to build self-reflection and conflict resolution skills.
At the meeting, Commissioners visited Wade Park Elementary School and Facing History New Tech High School to see Cleveland’s social, emotional, and academic development efforts in action. They also hosted two public hearings focused on the role of state and local leadership and partners in supporting social, emotional, and academic development (more on the hearings are below).
The Commissioners have reflected deeply on the lessons they learned in Cleveland and compiled their insights into key takeaways, including:
- A common language, a clear conceptualization, and shared understanding are critical in order to integrate social, emotional, and academic development in schools and classrooms.
- Integrating social, emotional, and academic development into various aspects of K-12 education and explicitly teaching SEL is not an either/or; both are necessary for full-scale implementation.
- The policy framework for social, emotional, and academic development needs to be sensitive to local context and translated readily to corresponding practices.
- Teachers are central to the full integration of social, emotional, and academic development, and the social-emotional competency of adults is a prerequisite for doing this work well.
- The full integration of social, emotional, and academic development is a significant undertaking for districts and schools, which are faced with multiple demands and limited resources.
Learn more about these insights and additional takeaways.
Public Hearings: Engaging Policy Leaders and the Broader Community
At a May 2 public hearing at the Cleveland Public Library, Paolo DeMaria, the Ohio state superintendent of instruction; Robert Heard, the vice chair of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District Board of Education; and Sen. Peggy Lehner, the chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, discussed the importance of social, emotional, and academic development for students’ success and how local, state, and federal leadership can support it. Lehner said the Commission is “at the forefront of a cultural change in how schools run.”A second public hearing, facilitated by Commission co-chair Tim Shriver, featured partners in Cleveland’s districtwide effort. Jillian Ahrens, a 1st grade teacher and a leader with the Cleveland Teachers Union; Shana Marbury, the vice president of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, one of the nation’s largest metropolitan chambers of commerce; Casey Morgan, the director of MyCom, a network of programs that provide youth development opportunities throughout Cleveland; and Stephanie Wu, the senior vice president of City Year, a national service organization for young adults, talked about how school-community partnerships can promote social, emotional, and academic development. While the partners may not yet be using a common language, they said, they’re all talking and share the same goal for young people.
Interviews on Facebook Live Offer Insights, Impressions
Jim Shelton, a member of the Commission and president of education for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, interviewed Eric Gordon, chief executive officer of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and Antwan Wilson, chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. (Gordon is a member of the Commission’s Council of Distinguished Educators, while Wilson is also a Commissioner.) The superintendents discussed what social and emotional development is; how it connects with and supports academic development; and how students, teachers, and schools benefit from the practice.
The following day, Shelton went live again with Jillian Ahrens, a member of the Commission’s Council of Distinguished Educators, about her extensive experience with social and emotional learning in Cleveland. They were joined by Chris Harried, a Commissioner and graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, who reflected on his visits to two Cleveland schools to learn more about their approaches to social, emotional, and academic development. “We as adults have to demonstrate these SEL skills if we want to see them in students,” Harried noted.
Social, Emotional, and Academic Development In the News
- The Council of the Great City Schools helped spread the word about the Cleveland site visit with a front-page story in Urban Educator, the Council’s newsletter.
- The American Federation of Teachers’ Schoolhouse Voices blog featured a post by Jillian Ahrens describing the five things she wants teachers to know about social and emotional learning.
- The Cleveland Plain Dealer joined the Commissioners to see social and emotional learning in practice at Wade Park Elementary School and Facing History New Tech High School.
- Commissioner John Bridgeland and Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University, a member of the Commission’s Council of Distinguished Scientists, co-authored an op-ed about Cleveland’s focus on social, emotional, and academic development and how such efforts can curb dropout trends in high schools and improve graduation rates.
- Diana Prichard, a member of the Commission’s Parent Advisory Panel, participated in the Cleveland meeting and offers three questions parents can ask to find out if their own children’s schools are teaching social and emotional intelligence.
Twitter Brought Your Perspective to Cleveland
Before our visit, we used #TellNCSEAD to solicit questions and comments from the nation. And it worked, with many thoughtful responses driving more than 2 million impressions! Special thanks to the National Education Association and MomsRising.org, top contributors that sparked lots of engagement by teachers and parents. Once in Cleveland, we used #SEAD to live tweet. We’ll continue to share insights on Twitter and encourage our partner organizations to keep the conversation going.
The #TellNCSEAD responses articulated the role of social, emotional, and academic development in creating effective conditions for learning and reinforced the need to address misconceptions, such as the belief that social and emotional learning is separate from academics. Respondents shared various strategies for integrating social, emotional, and academic development in K-12 education, from using project-based learning to develop students’ collaboration skills to cultivating self-awareness by teaching mindfulness and using restorative circles.
Members of the National Commission’s Parent Advisory Panel also used #TellNCSEAD to solicit feedback and participation directly from the parent audience. Many parent respondents indicated that the importance of social, emotional, and academic development stems from its ability to foster life skills, including teamwork and emotional intelligence. Parents also suggested that collaborative efforts between schools and families are crucial in supporting students’ comprehensive development, especially in culturally diverse communities where families may approach social, emotional, and academic development and ideas about school culture from differing perspectives.
Thanks to those of you who shared your insights! The Commission looks forward to future opportunities to learn from your expertise.
Voices of Social, Emotional, and Academic Development: News From Partners and Friends
- Check out this vast set of online guidance and practical tools from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to help school districts and schools systemically implement practices that promote social and emotional learning.
- It’s not too late for educators to take part in a survey from The Emotion Revolution for Teachers, a joint effort of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the New Teacher Center to raise awareness about the role of emotions in teaching, learning, and educator wellness.
- The Pennsylvania State University, in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently released its fourth in a series of 10 research briefs focused on social and emotional learning. This brief describes how focusing on social and emotional learning in preschool has the potential to reduce the school readiness gap and help children become healthy, thriving adults.
- The latest volume of The Future of Children from Princeton University and the Brookings Institution focuses on social and emotional learning. The issue’s eight articles are intended to shed light on how best to support SEL in schools and to explore how SEL in schools might affect important policy questions in education. Commissioner Roger Weissberg and Council of Distinguished Scientists members Stephanie Jones, Mark Greenberg, and David Yeager contributed to the journal.