Social and Emotional Learning in the Newton Public Schools

  • The social and emotional learning (SEL) approach in the Newton Public Schools supports the district’s mission to achieve a school culture that supports academic achievement and social and emotional competence and well-being and is responsive to the diversity and needs of our students. Supporting the development of students’ social and emotional competence is one of the foundation blocks of NPS, inextricably tied to academic success. To succeed academically and become empathic, engaged and ethical citizens, students need opportunities to develop social and emotional competence. NPS’s SEL approach fosters resiliency, responsibility, supportive relationships, and reflection and provides opportunities for students to develop and practice important social and emotional learning competencies.

    Goal 2 in the 2014-15 NPS District Goals reads:
    SUPPORT POSITIVE SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING - It is important that Newton not only have excellent academic programs but also recognize that social emotional learning is essential to academic success.
     
     
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    Why Opportunities to Develop and Strengthen Social and Emotional Competence are Important:
     
    SEL includes the knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs that allow students to:
    • Set and achieve goals
    • Regulate and manage emotions/ have self-compassion
    • Take the perspective of another and feel empathy
    • Establish and sustain healthy relationships
    • Make responsible decisions
    Several research studies have demonstrated that learning happens only after young people’s physical, social and emotional needs have been met[1] Researchers have also learned that “in meaningful and sustained learning, the intellect and emotions are inseparable. Brain research, for example, has demonstrated that emotions [drive] attention, learning, memory, and other important mental health or intellectual activities.”[2] A recent study from Columbia University focused on the economic returns of social and emotional interventions “showed significant benefits that exceeded costs.”[3]
     
    Developing social and emotional competence is a vital part of being able to function effectively in life as a student, employee and citizen. Opportunities to develop and strengthen social and emotional learning skills have shown positive effects including: strengthened connections with the adults and settings where youth participate, increases in positive behaviors and decision making and reductions in negative, disruptive and risky behaviors. [4] Youth who have opportunities to practice and build social and emotional learning skills demonstrate better academic performance, improved attitudes and behaviors, greater motivation, fewer negative behaviors including decreases in disruptive classroom behavior, aggression and disciplinary referrals and reduced emotional distress, including fewer reports of student depression, anxiety, stress and social withdrawal. [5]

    Social and emotional competence and well being impact how available a student is to learning. In addition, youth who master core SEL competencies:
    • Are strong and effective communicators
    • Are motivated and persistent in the face of adversity
    • Feel hopeful and confident about the future
    • Know how to have their needs met in healthy ways
    • Are able to consider the perspective of others/ see shades of gray
    • Create and sustain satisfying and supportive relationships with peers and adults
    • Solve conflicts and problems creatively and cooperatively
    • Are able to recognize and regulate their emotions /show self-control
    • Can demonstrate self-compassion in the face of doubts, negative self-evaluations and challenge
    • Are genuinely concerned about others’ welfare
    Adapted from Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Education Commission of the States (ECS) and Laboratory for Student Success (LSS), (April 2003). Making the Case for Social and Emotional Learning and Service-Learning.

    [1] Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Education Commission of the States (ECS) and Laboratory for Student Success (LSS), (April 2003). Making the Case for Social and Emotional Learning and Service-Learning.
    [2] McCombs, B.L. (June 2001). “The Learner-Centered Psychological Principles: A Framework for Balancing Academic and Social and Emotional Learning. Center on Education, Inner Cities Review.
    [3] Shriver, T. & Bridgeland, J. (February 26 2015). “Social-Emotional Learning Pays Off,” in Education Week. Retrieved on March25, 2015 from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/02/26/social-emotional-learning-pays-off.html.
    [4] Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (2005). Safe and Sound: An Educational Leader’s Guide to Evidence-based Social and Emotional Learning Programs. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois
    [5] Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (2005). Safe and Sound: An Educational Leader’s Guide to Evidence-based Social and Emotional Learning Programs. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois