District Administration Magazine included an article on its website last week entitled “SEL Check-ups At School.” Education Dive also published a brief based on the article entitled “Schools explore the best ways to gauge SEL skills.” There is an ongoing conversation about how social-emotional learning (SEL) skills can be assessed.
There are three primary SEL assessment tools schools are using mentioned in the District Administration Magazine by Victoria Clayton that are summarized by Amelia Harper at Education Dive:
Three current options are the Devereux Students Strengths Assessment, which is emerging as a leader in SEL assessment; Panorama’s assessment, which offers more student voice in the process; and a free, open-source option called Social and Emotional Competency Assessments, which was created by the Washoe County School District in Nevada.
She later writes:
SEL assessments also offer valuable feedback to teachers that allow them to craft their own responses to students in better ways. Schools can use the information to determine what changes need to be made to SEL programs or the ways they are implemented. And parents are often interested in the information as well so they can support their children’s social-emotional development at home.
Clayton in her article at District Administration Magazine points out the silent data that can be captured through SEL assessments:
The SEL assessments are often coupled with school climate surveys, which offer the children an opportunity to tell adults where there may be culture or safety issues at school. “Our SEL assessment became this great way for our schools to incorporate that piece—student voice—into the decision-making for a school,” says Korene Horibata, district educational specialist.
In Kansas, leaders at Olathe Public Schools (29,600 students) chose Panorama to align SEL with Kansas Can, a statewide education initiative that calls for students to express themselves. Results indicated that most Olathe students felt strong in social awareness but shaky about grit and perseverance.
This has changed the way teachers engage with students, Assistant Superintendent Jessica Dain says. During regular instruction, teachers now guide students on overcoming challenges or successfully completing assignments when they feel overwhelmed or uncertain.
“Most importantly, it provides what I call ‘silent data’—the information that would typically go unmeasured and unsupported in the classroom,” Dain says.
Both authors discuss how schools should assess SEL, why they should assess SEL, but nowhere in this discussion is any voice of caution over whether schools should.
This is classic group think mentality and why most education reforms have failed. Everybody jumps on the “brand new thing,” advocates it, boxes out any dissent, and moves forward without any data backing it up.
No one is asking the question, is this really what schools should focus their time on when they are struggling to teach core subjects? Also, is there any concern about student privacy?
No one in mainstream education policy circles or journalists writing about education seems to ask these types of questions.