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Why the Government is Investing in Social and Emotional Learning

I recently read a report that congress passed legislation this summer for landmark spending on social and emotional learning for American students. It represents $260 million in what congress calls the Whole Child Initiative.

This means our federal government believes it needs to spend money on kids beyond the education of reading, writing and arithmetic alone. This is amazing.

In an era when it feels like we’re intensely focused on academic scores with programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, leaders are recognizing that we may not reach those performance goals unless we help students and families develop socially and emotionally along the way.  Here is how the bill’s funding is broken down:

  • $170 million to provide grants for evidence-based innovations that support students’ social, emotional, and cognitive well-being, through the Education Innovation and Research Program.
  • $25 million to support teacher professional development, believing that adults (staff and faculty) need emotional support and development, too. This comes through the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program.
  • $40 million for the Full-Service Community Schools program to support students’ and families’ holistic needs, which go beyond financial or logistical needs.
  • $25 million for School Safety National Activities to add additional school counselors, mental health professionals and social workers who are qualified to work in schools.

Why now, and why this bill?

“Research shows that building the capacity of students to develop social and emotional skills, and take responsibility for their community, can reduce bullying, violence, and aggressive behaviors, making schools safer,” the House Appropriations Committee wrote.

But that’s not the only benefit.

Representative Tim Ryan (Ohio) has been an advocate of social-emotional learning and believes this is a major breakthrough because many in government still don’t recognize the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL). He believes there is still a long way to go in explaining how it actually improves academic performance. Once both the House and the Senate recognize that SEL programs increase performance, they’ll likely jump on board.

So, what does SEL do for students?

Four Big Reasons Behind This Bill

This bill still needs to get through the Senate, but it’s on the table. And when SEL is done well in schools—beyond just discussions on happiness and self-esteem—the programs lead to rigor and maturity in kids.  Let me suggest some of the big reasons behind this bill.

1. When students learn SEL, their mental health improves.

Schools that have utilized our SEL program, Habitudes for Social and Emotional Learning, have reported increased teacher-student relationships and transparency. They have noted a rise in students’ abilities to resolve conflict, self-regulate, and show grit during class time. Excellent SEL discussions genuinely lower mental health problems and help decrease anxiety and panic attacks.

2. When students learn SEL, their test scores improve.

“[Social-emotional learning] tells kids how to handle stressful situations, how to handle conflict better, how to have empathy, how to work on a team, how to best resolve conflict with their friends, their peers — these are all qualities we want kids to have,” congressman Tim Ryan said. “By addressing the social-emotional needs of kids, you see an increase in test scores because they’re able to access parts of the brain that they need for learning.”

3. When students learn SEL, their job prospects improve.

Consider this: SEL is all about raising emotional intelligence. When emotional intelligence improves, students increase their chances of employment in jobs. Teamwork. Collaboration. Communication. Leadership. Employers we’ve met with (at Growing Leaders) are clamoring for young professionals who not only possess hard skills (for a job) but soft skills for the teams on which they will serve.

4. When students learn SEL, their graduation rates improve.

According to one report by Kate Stringer, “…research has found that teaching students skills such as self-regulation, compassion and collaboration can improve not just test scores but also graduation rates as well as lead to better mental and physical health as an adult.”


New Habitudes Course:
Social & Emotional Learning

Our Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning curriculum uses memorable imagery, real-life stories and practical experiences to teach timeless skills in a way that is relevant to students today. Students are constantly using images to communicate via emojis, Instagram, and Snapchat. Why not utilize their favorite language to bridge the gap between learning and real-life application?

Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning helps middle and high school students:

  • Develop habits of self-discipline and initiative
  • Implement time management skills to do what really counts
  • Plan for personal growth outside the classroom
  • Identify their unique strengths and passions for a healthy self-image
  • And many more social and emotional skills

Click on the link below today to learn more about Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning!

Learn More

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Why the Government is Investing in Social and Emotional Learning