A Nation at Hope

A new report on social-emotional learning reinforces a growing movement to educate children as whole people.
January 2019, Volume 42, Issue 5

The Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development released its findings on social-emotional learning (SEL) in the report “From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope.” What did the report show? Our nation is at a turning point when it comes to SEL, and social, emotional, and cognitive development underpin children’s academic learning. It reinforces a growing movement to educate children as whole people, with social and emotional as well as academic needs.

“A Nation at Hope” emphasizes that translating knowledge about how people learn into practice and helping students develop skills like collaboration, empathy, and perseverance requires systemic change. It offers specific actions in research, practice, and policy to fundamentally shift how we teach children, with the understanding that the social, emotional, and cognitive dimensions of learning are mutually reinforcing rather than distinct.

NAESP is proud to have been a partner on this initiative, and as such, we remain committed to advancing social, emotional, and academic development. Most recently, we released a supplement, Leading Lessons: Social and Emotional Learning. Created in partnership with The Wallace Foundation, this guide designed to facilitate planning and discussion to effectively select and integrate SEL programs into schools.

Key Findings

Drawing on input from more than 200 scientists, youth and parent groups, educators and policymakers, the report is intended to help local communities accelerate and strengthen their SEL efforts. The report highlights these six “big bucket” recommendations:

  • Set a clear vision that broadens the definition of student success to prioritize the whole child.
  • Transform learning settings so they are safe and supportive for all young people.
  • Change instruction to teach students social, emotional, and cognitive skills; embed these skills in academics and school-wide practices.
  • Build adult expertise in child development.
  • Align resources and leverage partners in the community to address the whole child.
  • Forge closer connections between research and practice to generate useful, actionable information for educators.

These recommendations are especially pertinent as states and communities continue to leverage their increased authority on education policy under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The report includes specific strategies that schools, districts, and communities can pursue related to each recommendation and examples of places that are engaged in these efforts.

It also outlines evidence that confirms that supporting students’ social, emotional and academic development has a positive impact on their attendance, test scores, success in college and careers, and overall well-being. This approach also improves students’ feelings about school and makes schools safer.

Learn more at A Nation of Hope.

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