Responding to The 74 Jumping on the Social-Emotional Learning Bandwagon

An education news organization called The 74 (heavily funded by the Gates Foundation) recently jumped on the bandwagon for so-called social-emotional learning (SEL). This supposedly objective news source found little reason for skepticism about implementing SEL, as long as teachers are given sufficient resources and guidance. But such cheerleading masks deep concerns about whether schools should be manipulating students’ personalities via SEL. 

A brief response to The 74:

  • The 74 defines SEL as “teaching students skills such as self-regulation, persistence, empathy, self-awareness, and mindfulness” but admits that different research and media entities define SEL differently. This disagreement complicates SEL implementation and research/assessment, as evidenced in contradictory statements by The 74 and many other SEL proponents. As one researcher for CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) stated in a 2017 meta-analysis, “We know these skills are essential for children…” Yet in the same sentence, she said, “but there’s still a lot we don’t know about ways to enhance them.”
  • However SEL is defined, The 74 thinks this is what schools should be doing. But parents rightly object that the school (which means the government) has no business analyzing and trying to change a child’s psychological makeup. It’s one thing to enforce discipline in a classroom and encourage individual students to do their best; good teachers have always done that. It’s quite another to assess students on their compliance with highly subjective behavioral standards that may measure personality and individual or family beliefs more than objective shortcomings in performance. The school exists to assist parents in educating their children, not to replace them in that role. 
  • The 74 traces the concept of SEL back to the 1995 book Emotional Intelligence (which the news outlet apparently takes seriously). In fact, “emotional intelligence” has been debunked as “a fraudulent concept, a fad, a convenient bandwagon, a corporate marketing scheme.” SEL first entered the federal education lexicon in 1994 as part of the Goals 2000 legislation signed by President Clinton. These goals were “voluntary” as long as states were willing to give up their share of federal Title I money for not implementing them. This is analogous to recession-racked states’ “voluntarily” adopting the Common Core standards to qualify for federal money. 
  • Interestingly, research in a paper cited by The 74, as well as multiple other SEL proponents and education stakeholders, posits that the supposedly “rigorous” and “academic” Common Core supports  SEL and vice versa. The fact that Common Core is proving to be a drag on academic achievement demonstrates that neither is very effective. Besides seeing both SEL and Common Core as anti-academic, parents and citizens also recognize both as invasive and indoctrinating — so touting the SEL-Common Core connection is unlikely to engender support for either one.  
  • The 74 cites only studies supportive of SEL. But even the aforementioned CASEL researcher admitted, “The results to date have been mixed…There’s also a general lack of long-term studies that might give researchers a clearer picture of the programs’ effectiveness.” In fact, The 74 ignores glaring defects of the first meta-analysis it links — that only 15% of the 200+ studies reviewed did a long-term follow-up, and only 16% actually checked academic outcomes. The 74 also neglects to mention a decidedly negative analysis of preschool SEL in six longitudinal education databases, which concluded, “Early math skills have the greatest predictive power, followed by reading and then attention skills. By contrast, measures of socioemotional behaviors…were generally insignificant predictors of later academic performance, even among children with relatively high levels of problem behavior.” Ironically, the preschool years have the most uniform, numerous, and longstanding SEL standards in all fifty states. Yet this study, combined with a new Brookings paper, affirms much previous research showing that SEL-laden Head Start and other government preschool programs don’t improve academic outcomes. Nor does “growth mindset” (an SEL favorite), as confirmed by another recent study. 
  • The 74 also touts a paper claiming economic benefit from SEL interventions. But the paper’s authors emphasized that the SEL interventions they analyzed “are not representative of SEL generally,” and that the protocols and methods they used are racked with “deficiencies.” If there is any real economic benefit from SEL, this study doesn’t show it.
  • Turning to student SEL assessment, The 74 does admit that deciding whether SEL is working, or whether individual students are reshaping their personalities to the government’s satisfaction, is a tricky business. Only 17% of principals “know which assessments to use for measuring how their students are doing socially and emotionally,” especially since most states don’t have clear SEL standards or grade-by-grade benchmarks. But The 74 doesn’t report that even SEL gurus admit that meaningful assessment is at best problematic. This is because, among other factors, teachers aren’t mental-health professionals capable of assessing children and because, in any event, the assessment mechanisms usually depend on unreliable inputs (such as student self-reports). 
  • Speaking further of assessment, The 74 doesn’t mention the serious problem of placing all these unreliable, amateur psychological assessments into the longitudinal data system that will follow students, potentially, throughout their lives. Might employers or colleges or government agencies be interested in accessing records about a particular individual’s psychological makeup? 
  • The 74 approvingly links SEL to schools’ implementation of “restorative justice” in place of “punitive disciplinary practices.” The news outlet seems oddly oblivious to the controversy surrounding restorative justice. Many teachers across the country are rebelling against restrictions on their ability to discipline unruly kids, and such policies can have tragic consequences if criminal offenders are allowed to remain in schools. 
  • The 74 seems to endorse “deep breathing, counting, and mindfulness” for helping students improve their relationships with teachers. There is no acknowledgment that many parents would object to a school’s leading their children through such pseudo-spiritual practices. 
  • Prominent thought leaders in the teaching profession, even SEL proponents, are questioning whether SEL can be formally taught and standardized, as well the wisdom of burdening teachers with another responsibility for which they aren’t trained. (See here and here.) 

The bottom line is that SEL is far more subjective and invasive, and far less effective, than proponents claim. Maybe The 74 should take another look.

What Is So Great About Social-Emotional Learning?

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) seems to be the rage in education these days. It sounds so great SEL easily seems to attract supporters and promoters, including legislators. Maybe it makes them feel good. Use your search engine and see what comes up when you search for “social-emotional learning.” Check things out for yourself. Dig into some of the hits that come up and see if there is any big money behind SEL. While I haven’t dug into the deep history of the SEL movement, as with many other ed reform issues, I wonder if this push has come from widespread parental request or from big money folks. Or have the parents been told to want this? Which comes first, feeling good about yourself so you can accomplish something worthwhile or accomplishing something worthwhile so you have something to feel good about? Which is it, the chicken or the egg?

I recently read an article from ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine titled Accounting for the Whole Child. This article is very much promoting SEL and casts it, and some questionable practices, in a very favorable light. Here are two quotes that stuck out to me:

A growing number of districts and networks of schools are now administering social-emotional skill assessments, empowering educators to make informed decisions about how best to help students develop these capabilities.

A growing number of schools are making authentic, sustained efforts to collect data on students’ social-emotional skills.

Do you see any problem with this? ASCD and Educational Leadership apparently don’t. It would appear they fully support administering SEL assessments and collecting data on students’ social-emotional skills. This is sensitive and personal non-cognitive data being collected. No expression of concern for student privacy with regard to the collection of this data. Is there any reason to have concern about student privacy, either now or in the student’s future as a result of this data collection?

In case you aren’t aware of concerns about SEL that some people have, I want to provide you with a list before continuing on with this article.

Social Emotional Learning

  • Social emotional learning (SEL) standards, benchmarks, learning indicators, programs, and assessments address subjective non-cognitive factors.
  • Subjective non-cognitive factors addressed in SEL programs may include attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, beliefs, feelings, emotions, mindsets, metacognitive learning skills, motivation, grit, self-regulation, tenacity, perseverance, resilience, and intrapersonal resources even though programs may use different terminology.
  • The federal government does not have the constitutional authority to promote or develop social emotional standards, benchmarks, learning indicators, programs or assessments.
  • Promoting and implementing formal SEL program standards, benchmarks, learning indicators and assessments will depersonalize the informal education good teachers have always provided.
  • Teachers implementing SEL standards, benchmarks, learning indicators, programs, and assessments may end up taking on the role of mental health therapists for which they are not professionally trained. SEL programs should require the onsite supervision of adequately trained professional psychologists/psychotherapists.
  • Social and emotional learning programs take time away from academic knowledge and fundamental skills instruction.
  • SEL programs may promote and establish thoughts, values, beliefs, and attitudes not reflective of those held by parents and infringe upon parental rights to direct the upbringing and education of their children.
  • Informed active written parental consent should be required prior to any student participating in any social emotional learning program or assessment through the school system.
  • Sensitive personally identifiable non-cognitive data will be collected on individuals through SEL programs.
  • The collection and use of subjective non-cognitive individual student SEL data may result in improper labeling of students. This data will follow individuals throughout their lifetime with the potential for unintended use resulting in negative consequences.
  • Concerns have been expressed that SEL programs and collected data may potentially be misused with a captive and vulnerable audience for indoctrination, social and emotional engineering, to influence compliance, and to predict future behavior.

This list of bullet points can be downloaded as a one-page pdf document by clicking here.

On Jan. 23, 2017, HB 1518 Improving student achievement by promoting social-emotional learning throughout the calendar year was introduced to the Washington state legislature. The Brief Summary of Substitute Bill in the House Bill Report HB 1518 says:

  • Requires that the Department of Early Learning contract for up to an additional 600 summer Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program slots at certain priority school buildings.
  • Directs the Superintendent of Public Instruction to convene a work group to build upon the social emotional learning (SEL) benchmarks developed in 2016, and provides a list of members and duties for the work group.
  • Establishes a competitive grant program to increase the number of summer learning programs that combine academics and SEL, and specifies application criteria and reporting requirements for the program.

In addition, the bill requires a report be submitted in 2019 to the governor the legislative education committees “that describes how many summer early childhood education and assistance program slots were funded, participant’s school readiness outcomes compared to children that did not receive the summer school programming, lessons learned in combining academics and social emotional learning in summer early childhood education and assistance programs, and lessons learned in funding meal programs during the summer using reimbursements from the United States department of agriculture or other nonstate sources; and that includes recommendations for continuing, modifying, or expiring the program.” (Emphasis mine)

It seems like data would be collected on an experimental group and a control group. Kinda sorta sounds like an experiment would be conducted without saying it is an experiment. Maybe it is a non-experiment experiment. There is no mention of this being submitted to an institutional review board as research involving human subjects. Does HB 1518 call for experimental research on non-cognitive skills to be conducted on low-income four and five-year-olds in Washington State without adequate informed parental consent? Boy howdy, this is something that sure seems to sound good to a lot of folks, especially the 24 state representatives that sponsored the bill.

This bill also calls for the formation of a Social-Emotional Indicators Workgroup to continue building on the work of the Social Emotional Learning Benchmarks Workgroup that produced a report called Addressing Social Emotional Learning in Washington’s K-12 Public Schools. This report also tells us that in 2016, Washington state was chosen as one of eight states to participate in the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) Collaborative States Initiative (CSI). See page 8 of the report for some brief info about the CSI. Three of the eight CSI states dropped out within a few months of their selection. Washington was not one of those three states.

Washington’s Social Emotional Benchmarks Workgroup developed SEL standards and benchmarks. The Indicators Workgroup is to develop indicators for the benchmarks. HB 1518 did not pass out the house committee and has been reintroduced for this session. As of this writing, it has not passed out of the house committee and may be dead after today. That this bill hasn’t passed has not stopped things from happening that it requires to start. ESSB 5883 did pass in 2017 and appropriated funds for a workgroup to be established to develop SEL indicators for the already developed benchmarks. A Social Emotional Learning Indicators Workgroup has been formed and hard at work since September 2017 developing SEL indicators by grade band for each benchmark. It may, or may not be, a comfort to know that a Bill & Melinda Gates representative has a seat in this workgroup. Hmmm, I wonder if this workgroup will be influenced to use SEL indicators to stack-rank public school students similar to one of Microsoft’s employee evaluation systems.  We could use that as an example of a real-world application in the classroom.

The indicators no doubt will be used to assess student SEL skills. That means data collection. Collected data is going to be stored somewhere, no doubt in an electronic database. Who will have access to the SEL assessment data and anecdotal notes regarding an individual student’s SEL? How long will such data be kept? Where will it be kept? What kind of assurances are there the data will be secure? Should parents be informed and required to give permission for such personal data to be collected about their child?  So many questions.  I wonder if the indicator workgroup members will give any consideration to such questions.  The authors of the Education Leadership article gave no indication of concern for such questions.

With all that has been said here, you really should look at Washington’s SEL standards and benchmarks. Initially, they may look great to you. As you look at them, consider whether you would like your child to be formally assessed on the benchmarks using indicators under development with records that may follow them into adulthood.

The above standards can be found on page three of Washington’s Social Emotional Learning Benchmark Workgroup’s report, Addressing Social Emotional Learning in Washington’s K-12 Public Schools.

What will an SEL report card look like? What will the written comments look like for a student? What would they look like for you? I wonder if written comments on an SEL report card for a legislator might look like this:

Shows awareness of other people’s emotions, perspectives, cultures, language, history, identity, and ability by pretending to listen to and agree with expressed wishes of constituents and then responds “almost exclusively to the views of the wealthiest 10 percent of the population.”

Demonstrates a range of communication skills by responding to constituent questions with extended animated responses and displays of great oratorical skill but unfortunately fails to answer the questions asked. Has developed an excellent skill of answering questions that aren’t asked. Has a great ability to tell constituents one thing, usually what they want to hear, and then doing the opposite.

Demonstrates the ability to work with others to set, monitor, adopt, achieve, and evaluate goals provided the others will help with re-election funds and votes and has views aligned with and supporting those of the elite. Displays a conditional ability to work with others.

I bet you could come up with some great comments on a legislator’s SEL report card.  Can you state those comments in positive terms?  This is SEL after all and we want everyone to feel good.

If you don’t live in Washington state you may think you don’t need to be concerned about any of this. Before skipping off carefree, happy and content, you may want to check to see what similar SEL activity is already taking place in your state. There is a good chance SEL is already embedded in education programs across your state. Is it possible it is embedded in your state’s ESSA plan?

Schools Implementing Government-Sponsored Personality Manipulation

Shane Vander Hart has performed a service by spotlighting new ways for schools to put K-12 students on the couch, so to speak, and examine their personalities. These new assessment tools are necessary because the progressives who control public education have decreed that education is no longer about teaching academic content but rather about instilling government-approved attitudes and personality traits such as resilience and empathy. “Social-emotional learning,” or SEL, is now the focus of K-12 education, and the institutional guru is the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

To resolve the problem of how to psychologically screen and assess millions of children, without parental consent and via staffers who overwhelming aren’t qualified to do it, CASEL is exploring ways to measure if the little tykes’ personalities are undergoing the necessary transformation.

Even SEL proponents warn that assessment is a problem. For one thing, medical professionals can’t agree on the criteria for assessing children’s mental health. For another, most assessment instruments are unreliable. The most common tool – student surveys – is of questionable validity. Even students who treat the surveys seriously (which excludes all adolescent boys) may, as Dr. Angela Duckworth and David Yeager observe, misinterpret questions and otherwise provide misleading information. Because other instruments such as teacher reports present their own problems, these experts conclude that “perfectly unbiased, unfakeable, and error-free [SEL] measures are an ideal, not a reality.”

CASEL has thus initiated a “collaborative effort” to spur development of “practical and appropriate” SEL assessment designs. CASEL’s Measuring SEL Design Challenge has already prompted some ideas that should boost homeschooling numbers.

The first-place design in the competition uses computer-based testing to “assess self-regulation and self-management based on how long students spend on each test question, effectively combining a measure of social-emotional learning with existing standardized tests.” It’s unclear if this program could differentiate between the student who’s experiencing inner turmoil over a particular question, and one with the sniffles who just spends a couple of seconds blowing his nose.

Anyway, this concept of examining students’ psyches by analyzing keystrokes is central to “personalized learning” through digital platforms. The federal government and its data-mongering cronies aim to map students’ brains and determine how they think (and to change how they think) – see here, here, and here. The first-place SEL-measurement scheme fits nicely with this mindset.

The red ribbon in the competition went to Panorama Education for its “Social Detective” tool. Using Social Detective, children spend valuable class time watching videos of people answering such questions as, “What makes a good friend?” Then, the children answer questions about each person in the videos, such as, “What is more important to this person, loyalty or honesty?” The point of this is to “assess how well students can engage in social perspective-taking” – a skill that “is both malleable and teachable.” The assessed children will get feedback on how well their answers matched those of the video subjects, and then they have to repeat the whole process at least three times.

The Panorama experts apparently expect children to passively endure all this repeated silliness, remaining focused while continuing to watch anonymous people on screens talking about boring subjects. Boys, especially, will lose interest quickly (probably resulting in a negative assessment of their social skills).

Panorama is hazy about who will be assessing responses and offering feedback. Will teachers be expected to do this? And what sort of training and licensing, if any, would teachers have to undergo? Psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson has warned about the dangers to children of allowing what are essentially psychological assessments to be administered by untrained and unlicensed, even if well-meaning, people.

And will this sketchy assessment data end up in the state longitudinal data system, so that reports of children’s perceived difficulties with social interactions – think of the bored little boys mentioned earlier — will follow them forever? Panorama hopes its Social Detective tool “evolves over time as we collect more data” – data from children, used as guinea pigs, that may haunt them in the future.

A noteworthy omission in all the puff pieces about SEL and the innovative ways to assess it is any mention of getting permission from parents. Educrats and their ed-tech cronies seem to assume that because they think it’s a good idea, they have the right to decide that each child should undergo it – without even telling parents what’s happening.

Parents investigate whether your schools are implementing government-sponsored personality manipulation. If so, reassert your right to protect your children from such dangerous experimentation. Schools must treat students as students, not patients.

CASEL Looks To Build Social-Emotional Learning Assessment

CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, launched a design challenge to create a tool in order to help schools measure social-emotional learning in their students. The Hechinger Report wrote they recently announced the 2017 winners.

The First Place winner for 2017 is:

Student Assessment Engagement
When students take an achievement test on a computer, metadata like the amount of time spent on each item are often collected. Research shows that students who often respond extremely fast–so quickly they could not have understood the item’s content–are likely disengaged from the test. Our measure quantifies how often students respond extremely quickly over the course of a test, which is strongly correlated with scores from measures of social-emotional learning constructs like self-regulation and self-management.

Submitted by:
James Soland, Research Scientist, NWEA
Nate Jensen, Senior Research Scientist, NWEA
Tran D. Keys, Executive Director of Research and Evaluation, Santa Ana Unified School District
Sharon Z. Bi, Educational Research Analyst, Santa Ana Unified School District
Emily Wolk, Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation, Santa Ana Unified School District

Of course, the winner would incorporate data mining into their submission! Can’t let good metadata go to waste!

Here’s the second place design winner:

Social Detective
Panorama’s Social Detective is designed to measure and help students practice social perspective-taking, a malleable and central social competency that underlies a vast range of social-emotional functioning at school and in life. In this performance task, students are challenged to be a “social detective” whose job is to figure out other people’s values, interests, and perspectives. After watching short video interviews, students answer a series of questions to gauge how well they perceive and understand each person.

Submitted by:
Panorama Education

Panorama Education explains “Social Detective” further on their blog:

This just looks like an awesome use of time.

They had a tie for third place:

PERC
The PERC is a computer-based tool that assesses students’ Persistence, Effort, Resilience and Challenge-seeking behavior. These are key behavioral expressions of a growth mindset of intelligence.
Submitted by:
Tenelle Porter and Kali Trzesniewski, Department of Human Ecology, University of California, Davis
Lisa Blackwell and Sylvia Roberts, MindsetWorks

The video below walks you through the tool.

The other third place winner is:

Zoo U Social Emotional Skills Assessment
Zoo U provides a game platform for performance-based formative assessment of social emotional skills in upper elementary grades.

Submitted by:
Melissa E. DeRosier, PhD, 3C Institute and Centervention
James M. Thomas, PhD, 3C Institute and Centervention

They explain what happens when students start playing the game:

Six short scenes at the beginning of the game provide a baseline for how students are doing with social and emotional skills: communication, cooperation, emotion regulation, empathy, impulse control, and social initiation.

Students then have an opportunity to play up to 30 scenarios to improve and reinforce learning for each of these skills.

The entire game takes 10-15 hours to play. They encourage teachers to spread that time out to play one or two times a week for 30 minutes each session.

You can see who won 4th-6th place here.

Chester Finn: Social-Emotional Learning is Self-Esteem Repackaged

This has to be one of the rare times I find myself in agreement with Fordham Institute’s former president, Chester Finn, but I think he is on to something in an op/ed Education Week published on June 19.

He says Social-Emotional Learning is just the self-esteem movement of the 80s repackaged.

Finn writes:

Today, few people talk explicitly about self-esteem or other kooky curricular enthusiasms of the past, but the worldview and faux psychology that impelled them have never gone away. Of late, they’ve reappeared—and gained remarkable traction—under the banner of social-emotional learning, which claims to build the ways by which children learn and apply skills necessary to understand and manage their emotions, make decisions effectively, sustain positive relationships, and practice empathy.

The notion has attracted much buzz, thanks in part to its very own advocacy organization—the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL—which is backed by many high-status funders across the country. The National Education Association climbed aboard as well. Social-emotional learning also enjoys a high-profile national commission under the aegis of the Aspen Institute.

Adding fuel to the social-emotional-learning bonfire is its recent association with hot-button issues, such as reforming school discipline into restorative justice. Another major push comes from the federal Every Student Succeeds Act’s encouragement of states to include school quality in their rating systems, with school climate as a key metric in many jurisdictions. Another current education enthusiasm, known as 21st-century skills, also contributes to social-emotional learning’s popularity.

There’s nothing exactly wrong with many of these ideas, some of which partake of legitimate performance-character traits such as impulse control and self-discipline. But social-emotional learning also smacks of the self-esteem mindset, with entries such as “self-confidence” and “self-efficacy.” Dig into social-emotional learning’s five core competencies, as laid out by CASEL, and you’ll spot—among 25 skills students are supposed to learn—just one feeble mention of ethics and none whatsoever of morality. You won’t even find such old-fashioned virtues as integrity, courage, or honesty, and certainly nothing as edgy as patriotism.

Read the whole piece.

HT: Richard Innes

Tennessee Family Groups & Legislators Stand Up to Social Emotional Standards Onslaught

 

tennessee-state-flag

Congratulations to the education freedom activists and legislators in Tennessee for standing up to social emotional learning (SEL) national heavyweight, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). Federally and foundation funded CASEL is trying to impose these subjective, indoctrinating SEL standards via grants in eight states, including Tennessee. The others are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington. 

CASEL implemented free-standing social emotional standards in Illinois in 2004. We fought them back then as EdWatch. Here is an example of the extremely subjective standards put in place:

“Consider ethical, safety, and societal factors in making decisions.”

The Tennessee Department of Education (TNDOE) said in its presentation that the five competencies that would be taught are: 1) Responsible Decision Making 2) Relationship Skills 3) Social Awareness 4) Self-Awareness 5) Self-Management. These are essentially the same ones mandated in Illinois.

How, does a student, especially a young child, “consider ethical…factors in making decisions” when adults that are supposed to be role models are not doing so?  For example, some physicians are shirking their ethical duty to protect the health and emotions of gender-confused children by prescribing dangerous, life-altering hormone treatments at the drop of a hat when a child declares a transgender identity, despite overwhelming research (also HERE) showing more than 80% of these adolescents revert back to an identity corresponding to their biological sex at birth, and the suicide rate among those who complete the transition to the opposite sex even in very LGBT-supportive a very high suicide rate

TNDOE also said that these SEL standards would be integrated into every area of learning, but then claimed there would be no assessment and no student data collection. It is nice to see that they may be listening to the main concerns, even if only in an effort to deflect them, from many organizations and parents across the nation. However, research from Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute, Jane Robbins and Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project, and Shane Vander Hart here at Truth in American Education, as well as, what I wrote at Education Liberty Watch and The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, make that highly unlikely if not impossible to believe. SEL with affective data mining is the Holy Grail for Common Core, for corporations seeking a compliant workforce, and for government busy-bodies. Here is an example of another prominent group besides CASEL pushing SEL via Common Core:

ASCA [American School Counselors Association] – “Mindsets & Behaviors align with specific standards from the Common Core State Standards through connections at the competency level.”

As all of these documents show, social emotional standards are highly subjective and dangerous to freedom of thought and conscience, as well as privacy. They also perpetuate the false notion that it is the government schools’ responsibility to inculcate these values in place of parents and religious institutions; allow for indoctrination on controversial non-academic issues; and place more emphasis on job skills than on academics.

Many thanks to the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACTN), Tennessee Eagle Forum (TNEF), and Tennessee Against Common Core for standing up to protect the families of Tennessee in this matter.  All three groups alerted their members and warned legislators. Here is part of a podcast from FACTN:

This initiative is a potential Trojan Horse for social engineering in our schools.  If we do not take action and contact our legislators, our children may be taught values at school that conflict with values being taught at home.

TNEF alerted its members with this information from the EdWeek article about the multistate effort and its many problems (problems admitted even by this very pro-government and Gates Foundation-funded education publication):

What about that tricky issue of measuring social-emotional learning? The controversial approach has been heavily discussed lately because the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, requires states to add an “additional indicator” to their school accountability systems in addition to traditional factors, like student test scores…But many prominent researchers have questioned the validity of self-reported student surveys, which are most commonly used to measure SEL. And some have said it’s problematic to use those surveys for high-stakes accountability purposes.

Tennessee Against Common Core also sent out an important and helpful alert.

The legislators involved also showed keen discernment about this problematic endeavor. It was clear from the legislative hearing (beginning at 1:42:12) that the elected officials were very concerned about these on a number of levels, the most obvious from the hearing being national/federal interference in the education system of a sovereign state. Parents’ rights, cost, overcrowding of an already packed school schedule, and burden on teachers were other important concerns raised.

All of these combined to show TNDOE that there was little appetite in that state for this effort. Here is the letter from the executive director of Tennessee’s Office of Safe and Supportive Schools, Pat Connor, as documented by TNEF containing the bureaucratically disguised cry of “Uncle!” (emphasis added):

The previously scheduled meeting for Thursday has been postponed. We will reach out soon with a new date for our first meeting.

The work around social and personal competencies is vital to Tennessee students’ readiness for the workforce. Thus, it is critical to align this work with other state goals around workforce readiness. Due to the time required to ensure this alignment, we cannot meet the timeline set forth by CASEL. As a result, we will not be able to be a part of the Collaborative States Initiative. However, based on the feedback we continue to hear about the need to support teachers in meeting the non-academic needs of all students, we will continue to independently develop Tennessee social and personal competencies. These competencies will be optional and will not be assessed.

We are excited about this continuing work and will have internal dates and agendas forthcoming. In addition, opportunities for external stakeholder engagement will be announced soon.

Best,
Pat Conner | Executive Director – Office of Safe & Supportive Schools

This is a very encouraging development and Tennessee activists and legislators deserve much credit and congratulations. This success will be helpful and inspiring to the other states targeted by CASEL. As mentioned in its email, however, the TNDOE still plans to pursue psychological indoctrination and profiling of the state’s children in service of “workforce readiness.” As was also pointed out by Bobbie Patray, president of TNEF in her newsletter, constant vigilance as well as strong parental action is still needed because of the SEL teaching materials already developed, such as the TNDOE document titled “Incorporating Social and Emotional Learning Into Classroom Instruction and Educator Effectiveness: A Toolkit for Tennessee Teachers and Administrators.”

Let us celebrate this victory in a battle, but continue the fight of the long war. Stay tuned for more updates. As Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, so wisely said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Thank you for all you do to protect the hearts and minds of our children! And to CASEL, we say, “Game on!”

Top-Down Social-Emotional Learning Standards Coming Our Way

Education Week reports that eight states plan to collaborate to encourage social-emotional learning in their schools.

Eight states will work collaboratively to create and implement plans to encourage social-emotional learning in their schools, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning announced this month.

The organization, which is also known as CASEL, will assist the states through consultation with its own staff and a panel of experts. The participating states are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington. And an 11 additional states that originally applied to join the collaborative will have access to the materials it develops.

Each participating state has a unique plan, and many of those plans include creating developmentally sensitive standards that show how social and emotional skills are demonstrated at each grade level, developing materials to infuse traditional classroom concepts with social-emotional learning concepts, building strategies for state-level support, and implementing professional-development plans for schools about the subject.

Advocates for social-emotional learning hope the work, in particular the standards each state develops, will help answer “the whole question of how to align from the statehouse to the classroom,” said Roger Weissberg, the chief knowledge officer for CASEL.

“Having state standards helps inform districts, central offices, and boards of education what might be prioritized,” he said. “They can provide more guidance and help inform schools.”

What is social-emotional learning? CASEL defines it this way:

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Whatever happened to just teaching kids reading, writing and arithmetic (and science, social studies, etc.)? It appears that CASEL is the “Common Core State Standards Initiative” for SEL standards. Top-down social-emotional learning standards and policies coming to a local school near you, and something tells me they will probably bypass the statehouse with these standards as well.