George Lucas Educational Foundation
Teacher Leadership

Edutopia and CASEL Promote Social and Emotional Learning

    Last week, I attended a conference in Washington, DC, organized by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.There, I premiered our new video about the impressive curriculum promoting social and emotional learning (SEL) in the Louisville, Kentucky, school district. CASEL has been a valuable ally in our SEL coverage over the years in providing research on outcomes and helping us identify sites.

    In attendance was a diverse group of 150 leaders representing the broad community needed to redesign our schools: superintendents, legislators, teachers, physicians, curriculum-development and professional-development experts, researchers, parent advocates, and foundation officers. Sheldon Berman, superintendent of the Jefferson County Public Schools, is a great leader.

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    In my remarks, I acknowledged two luminaries with whom my path had crossed over the years. T. Berry Brazelton -- probably America's best-known pediatrician -- was the host of PBS's Touchpoints series back in the 1980s when I was at KQED, San Francisco's PBS affiliate. (He also covered for my own pediatrician during my baby daughter's first high fever 23 years ago, and taught me a valuable lesson about making sure she swallowed the baby Tylenol!)

    Also present was Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary. In 1963, he had performed at the March on Washington just blocks from where we were sitting, when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. He -- and we -- are still fighting for equal educational opportunity and social justice.

    Our video was enthusiastically received as another valuable visual tool for showing what effective SEL looks like in the classroom and how it can support students' academic learning. The audience was eager to see our Schools That Work case study on the Louisville schools, debuting this week.

    SEL needs to move to the center of education-reform discussions and policies, alongside the work on standards, assessments, technology, curriculum, and teacher development. Not enough policy makers and educators understand that until children are ready to learn, physically and emotionally, they won't learn.

    One of the exciting announcements at the conference was a new piece of federal legislation, the Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act, carried by U.S. representatives Dale Kildee, Tim Ryan, and Judy Biggert. (Download a PDF of the bill, HR 4223), at the CASEL Web site.) The act will be incorporated into reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, most recently known as the No Child Left Behind Act) next year, and will establish a national technical-assistance and technical-training center for SEL and provide grants to states and districts to implement SEL programs.

    -- Milton Chen, Executive Director