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The first in a series of briefs on integrating social-emotional learning with academics through a racial equity lens, coauthored by TransformEd and The Achievement Network.

Working for educational equity must be constant and ongoing. In this first brief, we have proposed a process for school and district leaders to do the deep and adaptive work needed to learn about systems and processes that may be hindering social-emotional and academic development for all students: learn, unlearn, and advocate.

We must resist thinking in siloed terms when it comes to social-emotional learning (SEL), academics, and equity. These elements go hand in hand, and this work cannot be done outside of sociopolitical and racial context. An approach to SEL or instruction that isn’t grounded in racial equity will only perpetuate injustice and inequities.

We’ve identified three principles to guide system- and school-level work in creating an environment that fosters social-emotional learning, academics, and equity. As you engage with each principle, ground your work in the learn, unlearn, and advocate process.

  • Principle 1: Understand what students, families, and the community need and value.
  • Principle 2: Establish a sense of safety and support.
  • Principle 3: Apply best practices from learning science to advance equitable school practice and policies.

By engaging in a process to learn, unlearn, and advocate with these principles, schools and systems can focus on establishing a learning environment—in-person or virtual— in which all students and staff feel valued, respected, and connected, are held to high expectations, can access the content, coursework and strategies to optimize their learning, and see relevance in their coursework in order to allow them to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. While the context will vary from district to district, we hope this framework will guide an equity-informed approach to the critical work of supporting the whole child.

“We must resist thinking in siloed terms when it comes to social-emotional learning (SEL), academics, and equity. Rather, these elements of our work as educators and partners go hand in hand.”

TransformEd & ANet