Student Well-Being Letter to the Editor

Policymakers Must Prioritize SEL

January 18, 2022 1 min read
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To the Editor:

New research from ACT and the American School Counselors Association shows the significant disconnect between school counselors’ desire to support students’ social-emotional development and the tools and resources available to counselors to support that work (“Teaching Social-Emotional Skills Is Hard, Time-Consuming, and Necessary, Report Says,” Nov. 12, 2021).

As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, social-emotional learning—and related whole-learner approaches to education that support the interconnected development of critical skills—are vitally important both to help students overcome the enormous challenges caused by the pandemic and to build greater resilience in the longterm.

This is particularly true for students who face longstanding inequities in our education system and for those who have been disproportionately impacted by the current public-health-crisis.

To expand these crucial approaches at scale, policymakers must prioritize efforts to deepen whole-learner professional development and make more resources available for school counselors, educators, staff, and families. Here are specific strategies policymakers should consider to close existing gaps:

  • Leverage the resources in Titles I, II, IV-A, and IV-B of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the recent influx of schools’ federal relief funding to incentivize SEL and whole-learner approaches and prioritize ample time for peer-to-peer and team-based learning.
  • Expand the inclusion of SEL and whole-learner pedagogy in professional development through the Higher Education Act.
  • Increase set-aside funding for SEL and whole-learner-focused family engagement.

These changes will help ensure more robust, comprehensive support for SEL and whole-learner approaches and enable a more equitable, sustainable recovery from this pandemic—for students, educators, families, and entire school communities.

Deborah Smolover
Executive Director
America Forward
Washington, D.C.

A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2022 edition of Education Week as Policymakers Must Prioritize SEL


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