SEL at the Center of Foundation Event

The W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation and the Forefront Education Group co-hosted a discussion around the University of Chicago Consortium’s report, Social, Emotional and Academic Development: Research Implications for Educators.  Elaine Allensworth, the Consortium’s Lewis Sebring Director, provided highlights of the report.  Brandis Friedman, correspondent and host of WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, moderated a panel that included Allensworth, LaTanya McDade, CPS Chief Education Officer, and Desmond Blackburn, CEO of New Teacher Center. 

Research has long told us that social, emotional learning (SEL) skills are critical to success in school and life for all students. And yet, there are still gaps between what we know and what we do for our children and students.  On March 21st, a thoughtful panel of experts offered evidence of progress – 447 CPS schools prioritized supportive school environments, earning the supportive school certification — and strategies for making the promise of SEL a reality for all. 

The education rhetoric of the last decade can lure us into thinking that the path to excellent outcomes lies solely in rigorous content and assessment.    The panelists debunked that myth, emphasizing the critical role of SEL components, including student engagement and emotions.  Allensworth explained that “emotions can encourage learning or inhibit it,” and teachers can encourage learning by understanding “how students are experiencing the classroom.”  Chief McDade added that SEL cannot be a “one and done” teacher training, but teachers must instead strive to have “student voice in the classroom, and classrooms need to be a window and a mirror where students can see the world outside as well as themselves.”  Blackburn challenged us to re-frame educator goals.  Instead of only asking teachers to raise test scores annually, raise the bar and inspire teachers to “transform the whole trajectory and 20 year outlook of the students and the school community.” 

While providing evidence of progress and offering a bold vision, the panel nonetheless asked the audience to think about how to implement SEL for all students and train all teachers.  Being the educators that they are, they gave us “homework!” 

  • create more meaningful partnerships between schools and community based  organizations;
  • provide a practical measure of SEL progress, both in students as well as the adults who work with students;
  • bring good practices to scale;
  • create a pipeline of teachers who “get” SEL by inserting SEL and child development knowledge into pre-service training; and
  • change the “hearts and minds” of adults working with students in the education  system so we are always working towards the success of the whole child, and not only test scores.  

The W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation is honored to work with grantees across its portfolios – from early childhood, K-12 education, and youth development – who understand how learning happens, and who work toward building systems that support the whole child and the whole teacher.