the need – realities before EQ learning.

What cries out for the inclusion of Social-Emotional Learning in every school’s priorities is the combination of scarily negative behaviors on a mass level (click to view) and the school factors detailed below.

The good news regarding this school and societal pain is that many years of research studies reveal that when comprehensively implemented in school cultures, Social-Emotional Learning has a profound positive effect on even the most troublesome student ills and on student school and life achievement (see The Results: After SEL). Moreover, the societal benefits are incalculable.

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poor academic achievement.

Continuing poor overall academic achievement compared to other countries persists alongside a significant achievement gap between students of color and their white counterparts. This continues despite decades of largely failed interventions to address the issue while mostly ignoring the evidence of the academic and life achievement benefits of programs to boost Emotional Intelligence.

achievement gaps.

Studies suggest that significant academic and achievement gaps between students of color and their white counterparts have much to do with the lack of EQ-raising Social-Emotional Learning. These gaps continue after decades of other failed efforts to address these issues while ignoring evidence of the profound benefits to those kids who’ve received such training.

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below proficient test scores.

The Institute for Education Sciences releases a bi-annual report showing student performance in literacy and math as measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) tests. In 2013, 65% of all U.S. fourth graders scored ‘below proficient’ on the NAEP reading test, indicating that they were not able to read at grade level. 80% of low-income children were scored below grade level in reading. By 2017, after intense years of focus on reading, the improvements were flat or “trivial” in almost all states. Many experts believe that disengagement and school “climate” play a major role in these deficiencies. Deficient school climate can indicate  the absence of comprehensive Social-Emotional Learning implementation, which research shows generally leads to higher academic test scores, much stronger student engagement, and better reading and comprehension abilities.

criminalizing student behavior.

Widespread (though declining) use of “zero tolerance” discipline policies that suspend, expel or criminalize many students who commit minor offenses has been a mass problem affecting tens of millions of youths (2 million incarcerated yearly), driving racial disparities and feeding the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Social-Emotional Learning is sorely needed to provide a positive alternative – particularly those programs that focuses on prevention, self-management and holistic practices such as “restorative justice,” which addresses root issues rather than criminalizes behavior.

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chronic stress and trauma.

The emotional stability needs of 20+ million American children growing up in poverty or near poverty take a major toll on school performance and climate. Meanwhile, evidence shows that these students (and in fact almost all students) will mostly enjoy far better school and life results when supported to develop strong self-management and relationship skills.

Such skills combat the chronic toxic stress many children experience in the absence of macro structural and economic changes. In one poverty area of the South embracing Texas and surrounding states, for example, one study found that 48% of African-America students suffered from trauma.

drug usage and dropout rates.

Slowly improving but still high rates of drug usage among students remain a core issue, along with dropout rates, particularly in low-income areas and among students of color.

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violence in the classroom.

Extremely high rates of harassment and violence are carried out by students against teachers, according to a study by the American Psychological Association Classroom Violence Directed Against Teachers Task Force. This is compounded by other disruptive classroom behaviors.

brain damage for hormone cortisol.

Neuroscience tells us the stress-related hormone cortisol in traumatized children can permanently damage the developing brain while strong attachment to a caring adult and a positive, supportive learning environment can lessen its effects and build resilience.​

cortisol-elements
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disengagement and diversity.

Student disengagement from school is a major issue affecting 40% of high school students across all grades – and aggravated in many schools by diversity as U.S. demographics continue to shift, presenting obvious challenges to the largely white, female teaching workforce via language and cultural differences. Teachers and students who participate in EQ-boosting programs experience gains in the social and emotional skills that often help to counteract bias and improve relationships between those from different backgrounds. The benefits include less disengagement from learning and improved classroom environments.​

bullying and school shootings.

Relatedly, rates of depression and anxiety among school children continue to climb. And suicides continue to be a problem. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 12.5% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17.

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goal setting and life skills.

In a recent survey, 50% of high school graduates said they were not prepared for the realities of life itself. Many students graduate without the self-management or goal setting skills – or flexibility – needed to succeed in college or the workforce. 82% of employers in one survey said high-school graduates were not ready for the workplace. Another survey found college administrators saying more than 50% of HS grads were not prepared for college.

increased depression and anxiety.

Rates of depression and anxiety among school children continue to climb. And suicides continue to be a problem. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 12.5% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17.

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ADD and ADHD.

According to the Center for Disease Control, an astounding 15% of all school-age boys have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and 7% of all school-age girls – for a total of 11% of all school-aged U.S. children. 19% of high school-age boys – ages 14 to 17 – and 10% of girls have been so diagnosed.

Too often those diagnosed were prescribed Ritalin or Adderall, drugs that can help patients but can also cause addiction, anxiety and psychosis. Social-Emotional Learning generally includes mindfulness training, which studies show can mitigate ADHD behavior, increase engaged attention and increase school performance and brain functioning. Click for research data.​

Kids need to learn how to respect each other, and a lot of kids don’t have the support they need at home.” Day, whose children attend Kirkwood, adds that she is “one of those parents who believes that it all starts at home, and we need to get parents involved with building social skills. But it doesn’t always work out that way. That’s why we’re glad our kids are getting these skills at school.

JOHNSON-O’MALLEY     tribal organization parent leader Laura Day

While there’s no such thing as a silver bullet, evidence is accumulating that emotional and social intelligence learning can alter these realities, often dramatically.

According to many educators, backed up by research studies, students in EQ-learning schools tend to focus better, think more coherently and widely, be more creative both individually and in groups, get along far better with peers and staff, and enjoy and engage in the overall school experience. 

Check out the evidence at Results After SEL.