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Published July 30, 2019

UB GSE-authored policy report addresses socioemotional learning standards

Publication outlines steps to implement an effective statewide plan

A growing body of research suggests that children’s socioemotional well-being is fundamentally important to their healthy and productive development. This finding implies that college, career and civic readiness is tied to better socioemotional skills and well-being.

This research and opportunities under new federal policies such as the Every Student Succeeds Act have sparked several states to adopt socioemotional learning (SEL) standards as part of, or in conjunction with, existing or revised academic learning standards. Historically, states have measured the educational progress of their students primarily, or even solely, on academic proficiency outcomes.

“State SEL standards tend to focus narrowly on specific skills and competencies, but fail to address learning environment gaps for whole child development,” said Jaekyung Lee, professor from the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology. Lee, along with GSE colleague Namsook Kim, student Ayse Cobanoglu and alumnus Michael O’Connor, co-authored a policy report that compares state learning standards and offers steps for success.

The report notes that New York State has recently developed K–12 SEL benchmarks for voluntary adoption by school districts, trailing early statewide adopters which use SEL standards for school improvement and accountability. New York State also lags behind other state leaders in terms of creating protective environments and advancing child well-being.

“Policymakers can take steps to enact meaningful socioemotional learning standards and ensure their effective implementation,” said Lee. He and his co-authors outline these four measures:

  • reenvisioning the school accountability policy for whole child development
  • well-balanced integration of academic and socioemotional learning standards and measures
  • investment in school/teacher capacity-building and a protective environment for child well-being
  • effective partnership between schools, families and community agencies for interventions (e.g., community school programs)

The policy report, Moving to Educational Accountability System 2.0: Socioemotional Learning Standards and Protective Environments for Whole Children, was published by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. The institute conducts cutting-edge research and analysis to inform lasting solutions to the problems facing New York State and the nation. Lee is a Richard P. Nathan Policy Fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

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