Though many studies have shown that teachers have large effects on student achievement, we know little about the degree to which teachers affect a broader set of student outcomes. In a new paper forthcoming in the Journal of Human Resources, I explore how teachers affect a range of student skills and competencies beyond those measured by multiple-choice tests.
In education, we sometimes fall into an acronym trap: ESSA. IEP. ELA. SEL. Or we default to rattling off statistics as shorthand for what we’re really talking about. And sometimes, this kind of secret education code serves us well. It allows us to transmit information efficiently. But it also comes at a price if we forget to balance it out with stories about the humans at the center of our work.
We are excited to be featured in yesterday's article on social-emotional skills (or “MESH”) on the front page of the New York Times. It's great to see the recognition for this important cause, and we love hearing about teachers like Ms. Cooney who are proactively supporting students in building the skills they need to succeed within school and beyond. Teachers like Ms. Cooney make us even more proud of the work we’ve done so far to support the CORE Districts, which have incorporated social-emotional skills and school culture/climate into their school accountability and continuous improvement system. As with any systems change effort, this has given rise to many questions. We understand the concerns about how MESH measures should be used, and we take those concerns seriously. We also know that part of having a Growth Mindset is committing to putting in the effort, reflecting on what we’re learning, and continuously improving the approach over time. We believe MESH measures aren’t perfect…yet...
Many of the conversations we have with researchers, policymakers, and district partners begin with a discussion of which Mindsets, Essential Skills, and Habits we will focus on in our work together. The following table provides a glimpse of myriad skills that fall under the many related frameworks of “social emotional learning,” “21st century skills,” “character education,” and so on. This “Tower of Babel,” as we often call it, can quickly become overwhelming.
For those of you familiar with our work, you may know that TransformEd serves as the lead strategic advisor on social-emotional learning (SEL) to the CORE Districts in California. The CORE districts have committed to measuring students’ social-emotional skills alongside academic achievement and school culture and climate in their shared continuous improvement system. In addition, TransformEd facilitates the Boston Charter Research Collaborative, a researcher-practitioner partnership focused on rapid-cycle research projects that support student growth in both the cognitive and social-emotional skills that contribute to academic and life success. However, these aren’t the only schools focused on measuring students’ social-emotional skills and using data to inform instruction. Our colleagues at CASEL work closely with eight districts to implement SEL district-wide, and here’s a look at five other districts around the country that are independently designing systems to assess students’ social-emotional skills in innovative ways.