Parents, teachers say SEL is valued and needed in schools
Parents and teachers expressed strong and widespread support for incorporating social-emotional learning in K-12 schools, despite recent efforts to politicize the practice, according to two surveys released this week. One poll found nearly all teachers (94%) said students do better in school when teachers integrate SEL into the classroom.
Two-thirds of teachers said that over the past two years, a student or parent had requested mental health or social-emotional support, according to a survey of more than 2,000 educators by Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace for original educational resources. A separate survey of 1,200 parents of school-aged children found both Republicans and Democrats value SEL in schools, according to Committee for Children, a nonprofit that works with educators and families to keep children safe.
Although there's wide support for SEL practices, more than half of teachers surveyed said they weren't prepared to serve students effectively in this area. As schools work to strengthen students' mental and social-emotional well-being, leaders should also prioritize teachers' personal health, the teacher survey recommended.
Experiences of trauma, isolation, illness and death during the pandemic have elevated the need to support students' mental health. Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Children's Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.
At the same time, pockets of pushback on SEL activities in schools have created reluctance or limitations to social-emotional offerings in some areas. Other localities, however, report putting more emphasis on building skills for social engagement and self-discipline.
Of the teachers polled by Teacher Pay Teachers, 81% said they are spending more time on SEL this school year than previously.
Educators who reported being more connected to their school community said they were more likely to have schoolwide practices to support students' well-being, professional learning related to SEL and resources needed to teach SEL.
Teachers' sense of school connectedness included feelings of belonging, being treated with respect and a perception that their school leader cared about them.
Teachers were also asked about the SEL strategies they use in the classroom. Some of the most popular of the 10 strategies covered in the survey included worksheets for planning and goal setting, opportunities for building social skills, mindfulness techniques and technology teaching SEL concepts or skills.
After using SEL practices, teachers said they saw improvements in student behavior, positive relationships, emotional regulation and other areas.
The Committee for Children's polling, which was conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group, asked parents about their perceptions of SEL, as well as their political leanings. Results revealed during a Monday news briefing show 79% of Democrats and 81% of Republicans whose child's school teaches SEL said the schools should do more or are doing the right amount of SEL instruction.
Jordan Posamentier, vice president of policy and advocacy for the group, said while there are examples of opposition to SEL, there are likewise examples of state and local school systems working to prioritize SEL skill-building. SEL practices are also referred to as life skills, whole child, career readiness or other titles.
The survey data shows it doesn't matter what SEL is called, Posamentier said.
"There's broad and strong support for the concepts and tangible outcomes that come with the practices. Parents and families want these skills prioritized in their children's classrooms," he said.