Frequently Asked Questions

What is the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development?
Why is this so urgent? Why is the Aspen Institute launching this Commission now?
What does the Commission hope to accomplish? What are the Aspen Institute’s goals for the Commission?
Why is the Commission focused on K-12 education?
Who are the Commissioners and how were they selected?
How can I engage with the Commission?
What is the Commission’s schedule and timeline? When will the final report be released?  What do you expect it will contain?


What is the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development?

The National Commission is a taskforce of diverse leaders who believe strongly that it is time to re-envision what constitutes success in our schools. Overwhelming evidence demands that schools complement their focus on academic achievement with the development of social and emotional competencies that are equally essential for students to thrive in school, career, and life.

To that end, the Commission is exploring how to fully integrate social, emotional, and academic development in K-12 education. As part of this work, the Commission will learn crucial lessons from teachers, parents, and students across the country; spark local and national conversations; examine challenges and opportunities; and highlight promising practices. Ultimately, the Commission will recommend specific action steps in research, practice, and policy that, if implemented, will usher in a new era of K-12 education focused on the whole student.


Why is this so urgent? Why is the Aspen Institute launching this Commission now?

We are in a unique moment for K-12 education. Despite schools’ focused attention on academics, achievement gaps persist and too many of our youth are unprepared for the rigors of college and careers. At the same time, advances in research, growing public support, and policy momentum are converging to create a window of opportunity for a broader vision of education success.

  1. Mounting evidence reveals that social and emotional skills are strongly linked to school performance, career success, and overall well-being.
  2. Parents, educators, and business leaders increasingly recognize the short- and long-term benefits of these skills and the role that schools can play in developing them.
  3. The Every Student Succeeds Act and emerging policy efforts at the state and local levels are creating opportunities to prioritize social and emotional development alongside academics.

The National Commission can build on this momentum while ensuring progress is made with careful deliberation.


What does the Commission hope to accomplish? What are the Aspen Institute’s goals for the Commission?

The Commission hopes to help transform K-12 education so that all of our youth benefit from schools that focus on the whole student—preparing them to thrive in our complex, economically competitive, and globally connected world.

The Commission will engage educators, families, community leaders, researchers, and policymakers in reframing what a successful K-12 education means in our country. Specifically, it will:

  1. Build a broad alliance of stakeholders speaking with a unified voice about the urgency of integrating social, emotional, and academic development into the fabric of K-12 education.
  2. Elevate promising practices in schools across the country and innovative policies that support their work.
  3. Identify the next generation of research needed to effectively advance these efforts.
  4. Develop a 5-10 year roadmap that recommends specific action steps in research, practice, and policy to create a K-12 education system that supports the whole student.


Why is the Commission focused on K-12 education?

Research establishes that social, emotional, and academic development are inextricably linked. Schools that embrace this connection and are intentional about integrating social, emotional, and academic development will maximize their students’ potential to learn. In addition, social and emotional skills such as the ability to manage emotions, work on a team, communicate, and make decisions are crucial throughout life—in school, higher education, and the workforce. Schools that prioritize all of these areas of development will better prepare students for their next steps.

Early childhood education and pre-K have led the way with integrating SEAD, and the Commission will look to build on their lessons learned for K-12. The need for social, emotional, and academic development doesn’t end at the kindergarten door—it extends from elementary through high school. In fact, our young people must develop increasingly sophisticated skills and competencies to thrive in their expanding worlds. The Commission wants to help to create a seamless transition for students by specifically addressing the challenges and opportunities that face leaders in K-12 education.

We realize that schools do not exist in a vacuum. Parents and families play a primary role in addressing kids’ social and emotional needs as do the adults who work with youth outside of school. As part of the Commission’s work, a Parent Advisory Panel will share its insights on how schools can complement at-home efforts and connect the Commission with a broader parent network. The Commission also will partner with community organizations, after school and extended learning providers, youth workers, and others to align efforts to build a connected community of adults all committed to equipping youth with the tools they will need to thrive.


Who are the Commissioners and how were they selected?

The Commission will unite leaders from multiple sectors, including education, research, business, health, and the military. In forming the Commission, the Aspen Institute is placing high value on varying perspectives and backgrounds but a shared commitment to re-envisioning K-12 success. The full Commission will be identified later in September.


How can I engage with the Commission?

The Commission will continuously share information about its activities; seek insight from those engaged in and affected by this work; and foster active, public conversation about the issues.

To receive the latest information and updates on opportunities to engage with the Commission:

  1. Join our email list.
  2. Follow us on Twitter @AspenSEAD.


What is the Commission’s schedule and timeline? When will the final report be released?  What do you expect it will contain?

The Commission’s full schedule is still under development, but between now and late 2018, the Commission intends to travel across the country, convening site visits and holding field hearings, to hear from parents, teachers and others working directly with our youth.

We expect the Commission to develop a 5-10 year action-oriented road map with specific recommendations for next steps in research, practice, and policy that can accelerate our efforts to promote all students’ social, emotional, and academic development.  The Commission’s work will culminate with a final Report to the Nation to be released in the fall of 2018.