EQ Meets IQ: An Interview with Roger Weissberg
Roger Weissberg: I don't think that children have advocates, and my goal always has been to do what can be done, so that students are successful in school, and in life, so they feel good about themselves, so they feel good about where they live, and their families, and they have a sense of optimism and they feel that they're going places in life, and they matter to others, so that is part of the passion that I feel, doing things that can improve the lives of children.
For a number of years, people have said, "Oh, if we spend time focusing on the social and emotional side of things, it might be at the expense of academics." But we've found something entirely different in the work that we've done. We've found that if you focus on the social and emotional, it improves children's behavior, and it also improves their academic performance. So this is a two-fer now, if you address kids' social and emotional growth, you'll also be benefiting them academically. And this translates in terms of achievement test scores, so that one of the things that we're finding, and we were really quite surprised when we began this overall study, is that children improve 11 percentile points. In other words, with some of the other studies that have been done, that look at the impact of class size, or other kinds of programs that even try to promote academic performance, this increase of 11 percentile points is a big deal.
In Illinois, we have social and emotional learning standards that are part of the Illinois Learning Standards. These are things, now social and emotional skills that children are expected to know and be able to do and the fact that there is a policy environment that is supportive for doing social and emotional learning instruction, commits teachers to doing the work more effectively, because they feel it's something that is supported, and encouraged by policy makers.
We talk about three Ps that are going to be necessary to make effective social and emotional learning a reality. One thing is policy, federal policy and state policy. A second thing are principals in the building, we find are extremely important to make this work, and come together, so for leadership, which does not begin with a P, but principals do, that's important. It's also important, of course, to have superintendants and district people involved in supporting this effort, and finally, there's the professional development and technical assistance and support to teachers. If we're going to do this work well, there needs to be good guidance, sound policy, and support, and an investment in teachers doing this in the most effective way. That kind of support is going to lead to students who are knowledgeable, responsible, caring and ready to be successful at school and in life.
It's one thing to collect the information and to do the science, and to see what the findings are, it's another thing to think about ways to share this more publicly with educators, with parents, with communities, with policy makers, so that we can begin to do what is the most effective programming that we can, on behalf of kids.
Narrator: For more information about, What Works in Public Education, go to edutopia.org.