RSS feed (1)

Education Policy Center

Beyond Shame and Blame in the Classroom (Tue, 16 Feb 2016)
On February 12, a New York Times story linked to a video of a teacher in a well-known New York City charter school losing her temper and humiliating a first grader. Reactions were swift and varied. Don’t coddle kids. Some kids are tough to teach. This is just one moment in a teacher’s work. The school is good—look at its test scores. This video itself, and some reactions to it, reveal a faulty understanding of the kind of educational experiences students—especially the most vulnerable—need to succeed in school, career, and civic life and of the role the adults play in creating those experiences. Social and emotional conditions help students learn Student learning is significantly compromised when students don’t feel emotionally and intellectually safe. Our research points to the importance of students experiencing social and emotional as well as academic support from teachers. Other scholars’ studies, including evidence-based CLASS assessments of the quality of instruction, are consistent with this finding. One positive real-world example: In Anchorage, Alaska, How to Teach Math as a Social Activity builds on social and emotional learning and student-developed learning norms among a community of learners (and we should note that the program in Anchorage is one of the eight districts in the Collaborating Districts Initiative, which AIR is evaluating). Our soon-to-be-published research on the first four years of research of this systematic effort found that in Anchorage, attendance was significantly higher in the first, third, and fourth years of implementation in elementary school and in the second and third years in middle school. Both middle and high school GPAs were significantly higher in all four years after the district-wide focus on social and emotional learning was adopted. Learning is more than test scores Learning is more than what test performance measures, particularly learning that prepares young people to succeed in college, career, and civic life.  Although test performance is often a proxy for learning, learning is also about developing such skills as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and self-management. Social and emotional learning, research shows, is key to acquiring these skills as well as to mastering and applying academic subject matter. A teacher publically berating a student and tearing up her work does not tee-up future deeper learning. The sensibilities critical to deeper learning become easier to develop when students individually and collectively own their learning, respect diverse perspectives, and feel safe taking academic risks. Teaching is complex and more than what students’ test scores reveal Developing students’ social and emotional competence and their ability to master and apply academic knowledge depends on effective curricula and sound pedagogical practices. In turn, these practices depend both on teacher technical skills and their own social and emotional competence—the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to manage their emotions, be aware of their behavior’s effects on others, and learn from student’s behavior.   Teaching is stressful, to be sure. But socially and emotionally competent teachers can prevent that stress from harming their students—critically important since adults with authority and power who lose their temper and punish a student model the very bullying and lack of self-control that we want students to avoid. What was captured on the video may well have been a momentary lapse. But the consequences of such lapses can linger. And preventing them requires 100 percent reliability—the same standards surgeons and air traffic controllers strive to meet in their high-stress occupations, even though unnerving surprises happen in the operating room and the skies aren’t always calm and clear. A hard truth here is that teaching is a demanding job that not everyone can do well. Many teachers and principals simply aren’t well-prepared for the emotional challenges of working with students who may experience prejudice, struggle habitually with hunger, watch a loved one die, battle a behavioral disorder, or lack access to quality health and dental care. And some teachers may not be prepared to work with diverse learners whose backgrounds differ from their own. While most American teachers are white, middle class, and female, only 49 percent of students are white and twenty percent live in poverty. Almost 10 percent are English language learners. The onus shouldn’t be solely on teachers here. Conditions for teaching are co-created by principals, districts (or charter agencies), states, and the federal government. Districts and charter agencies in particular have a choice. They can focus mainly on short-term test performance or—as Anchorage, Austin, Cleveland, and five other districts in CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative do—emphasize teaching and supporting social and emotional wellness as well as academic growth for all their students.  The memes we’d rather see The video that’s making waves is about being test-driven rather than learning- and learner-driven. It’s also about a profession in dire need of more support—from recruitment to preparation as well as professional development, support, and retention. In contrast, videos of classrooms look different when students are getting the educational experiences they need to succeed academically and thrive emotionally and where educators are well equipped to educate, support, and encourage today’s diverse youth. If warmer, more supportive learning environments and rigourous teaching are to become the norm, then we’ll need to strive to: Strategically recruit people into the teaching profession: candidates with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to work with students in a caring and supportive way. Ensure that all teachers understand child and youth development, the impacts of trauma, and other childhood adversities. Prepare teachers and principals to meet the needs of diverse learners. Infuse diversity, inclusion, self-awareness, and cultural competence throughout all teacher preparation programs.    Support teachers’ capacity to care by building their social and emotional competencies to manage stress, connect with every student, and differentiate instruction and support. Help them assess their own feelings, interests, values, biases, and strengths. Stay focused on the social and emotional conditions for learning and long term mastery, not just short-term test performance. Assess conditions for learning and school and classroom climate through actionable confidential student and family surveys. Use this and other evidence to improve learning and support student development. Assess conditions for teaching through confidential teacher and staff surveys and use this and other evidence to improve teaching and support for teacher development. Whether just once, or habitually, a teacher losing her cool is a problem for her, her students, the principal of her school, and the profession. She (or he) is responsible, even in stressful settings, but so are those who should be supporting her from her first teacher-preparation course throughout her career. The videotaped teaching moments that we want to go viral are like the one of Anchorage. They show that diverse learners can be engaged and academically supported and that students can collaborate with each other and their teachers to promote the academic and social and emotional learning of everyone in the class.   Angela Minnici, managing researcher at AIR, is director of the Education Policy Center and the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders. David Osher is an AIR Vice President and Institute Fellow. He is also principal investigator for The National Center on Safe Supportive Leaning Environments, The National Clearinghouse on Supportive School Discipline, and The National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At Risk. Related Issues:  Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Author:  Angela Minnici David Osher Author (s):  Angela Minnici David Osher
>> Read More

Are Schools Ready to Assess Social and Emotional Development? (Fri, 29 Jan 2016)
How is Olivia doing in math? Check her math tests. How is Jayden doing in English? Check his writing grades. How are Olivia and Jayden getting along with others? Are they engaged, optimistic, empathetic, and self-aware? Can they cooperate with others, make decisions, and resolve conflict? Are they good listeners? Do they respect others? That’s a lot more complicated. There’s a growing consensus that students must master social and emotional skills—along with “the three Rs”— to succeed in college, careers, and life. In fact, mounting evidence shows that these skills may be more predictive than test scores of student success in English language arts and math. And the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the basic federal framework for education policy, states that “school climate” and “student engagement” are valid indicators of school quality or student success. So how can states and districts build systems to support and properly assess these social and emotional skills and competencies? Illinois, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia already have SEL standards independent of their academic content standards. And most states’ current standards for, say, the Common Core or college and career readiness, include some components of social and emotional learning.   But more difficult, teachers, principals, district and state policymakers, and education researchers have to find valid and reliable ways to properly evaluate students’ social and emotional skills and competencies. Validity, reliability, efficiency, and purpose all matter critically when considering assessment of social and emotional skills and competencies. Some of the roadblocks to valid assessments have been pointed out by Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania and David Yeager of the University of Texas.  So let’s see what can happen in the case of Olivia and Jayden. Olivia’s teacher may fill out a questionnaire about Olivia’s current collaboration and leadership skills with answers that reflect initial impressions from the beginning of the school year. Or Olivia may behave very differently in one teacher’s class or at home. In each case, the results of Olivia’s assessment aren’t an accurate measurement of her social and emotional skills. At Jayden’s school, SEL practices have been in place for years. Jayden and his teachers have developed a critical eye for social and emotional skills and competencies. Jayden may get higher ratings than Olivia because he and his teachers are more experienced in assessing social and emotional skills, they have a shared language about skill building, and they’ve developed more critical judgments.    Most current social and emotional skills assessments were developed in research settings to collectively evaluate large numbers of youth – not individuals. That means that controlling for these factors takes significantly more training and effort than schools and districts typically provide. Then, too, there is no single gold standard for assessing social and emotional development. That means that repeatedly implementing individual student assessments may overburden districts without the resources that this kind of rigorous assessment requires. It might not even be fair or ethical to subject students, teachers, and parents to a burdensome regimen of assessment. For these reasons, some educators may opt to assess the overall school climate to gauge its effects on social and emotional learning. Done properly—taking into account current standards of teacher practice, student engagement, social and emotional supports, and the school’s physical environment—this simpler approach can still highlight the conditions for social and emotional learning and identify areas for improvement. That said, assessing students’ social and emotional skills can yield critical information about each child’s development. And that information can help teachers and parents discover the best in each child, and improvement in traditional subjects and test scores. Taking that route requires educators to develop an assessment plan that: sets a well-defined purpose identifies a rigorous assessment outlines practical considerations for carrying out the assessment evaluates ethical considerations and the burden to students, staff, teachers, and families. What works best for educators? Here AIR can help schools, districts, and states decide whether and how to assess social and emotional development through a suite of free tools called Ready to Assess. Does every school, program, or intervention need individual SEL assessment? Probably not. Do we need more educators working together to educate the whole child—adopting practices that foster opportunities for social and emotional learning and a positive school climate for all students? Absolutely. Deborah Moroney is a Principal Researcher specializing in social and emotional learning in school and in afterschool settings. Michael McGarrah is a Research Associate specializing in human development and college and career readiness policy. Related Issues:  College & Career Readiness Author:  Deborah Moroney Michael McGarrah Author (s):  Deborah Moroney Michael McGarrah
>> Read More