Supporters of social and emotional learning are beginning to have friends in high places.
U.S. Rep. Dale E. Kildee and colleagues from both sides of the political aisle introduced a bill last week that is designed to promote school-based social-development programs. The measure, H.R. 4223, calls for a national technical-assistance and training center, programming grants, and a national evaluation of school-based social-learning.
“By making social and emotional leaning part of every child’s education, we are giving the next generation the skills they need for productive and confident lives,” said Mr. Kildee, D-Mich. His co-sponsors are Reps. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.
Mr. Kildee, the chairman of the House subcommittee on early-childhood, elementary, and secondary education, unveiled his bill at a meeting of the Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning, or CASEL, a Chicago-based group.
The group also heard from John Q. Easton, the director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm for the U.S. Department of Education. He told participants that while “nothing is set in stone,” he is sympathetic to their cause.
“Teachers are much more willing to innovate when they trust their colleagues,” he said, “and that also makes it easier to develop trust between teachers and children.
“I’m willing to bet that also leads to improved social and emotional learning in schools,” Mr. Easton said.
New interest in students’ social development stems from an accumulating body of research showing that school-based efforts to teach children to manage their emotions, make responsible choices, resolve disputes, and develop values yield academic payoffs as well. School systems in Anchorage, Alaska; Louisville, Ky., New York City, and elsewhere already integrate such lessons throughout their curricula.
Last weeks meeting also drew supporters from the entertainment world. Actress Goldie Hawn came in her role as president of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Hawn Foundation, and Peter Yarrow of the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary led participants in an impromptu rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.” Mr. Yarrow is also the founder of Operation Respect, a New York City group that works to promote safe, respectful school environments.
A version of this article appeared in the December 16, 2009 edition of Education Week as Emotional Learning Promoted in Bill