Sunday / May 19

Grading Social-Emotional Learning

I recently received a book proposal on how best to incorporate social-emotional learning (SEL) into student report cards. Oh, how excited I was to see something like this being proposed! And oh…I then thought…how many teachers will be dismayed by having more to teach and how many parents will be up in arms to see SEL assessed and graded!

We have been talking about the importance of teaching social skills and promoting positive student mental health for years and years, and yet still SEL is often not a part of the K-12 curriculum. Knowledge of what to do when we suspect what a child needs is often absent. Assessing a child’s progress in the area is difficult. And then we watch our television screen in horror when students mistreat their peers and adults, bring guns to school, and hurt themselves.

The advent of the Common Core provided an opportunity to further the discussion on the importance of SEL, yet it is conspicuously absent from the new standards. This is a controversial topic, I know—schools as replacements for what many think families should be doing. But we know that

  • Students cannot learn if they do not feel safe
  • Unless students feel as though they are a part of a community that accepts and nurtures them, they will never reach the academic milestones that we expect of them
  • Kids really can’t reach Common Core milestones unless they are strong socially and emotionally, or in other words, can collaborate and problem-solve

As a parent of two pre-adolescent boys, I am never more proud than when I see them acting with kindness and compassion toward others. Getting high marks on a test is fine, even desirable, but is it as important as learning to be respectful and positive? How much better will our schools be for all if kindness and compassion were part of the curriculum?

What do you think? Should schools be “grading” kids in SEL?

Written by

Jessica Allan, a Senior Acquisitions Editor at Corwin Press, began her career in publishing more than 20 years ago in New York City. After working in the trade side of the business, she found her niche in educational publishing and has a particular interest in struggling learners, what we can learn about educating children from the field of neuroscience, and safe school climates.

Latest comments

  • We collected anecdotal data suggesting that not including SEL in the report card is a potential barrier to SEL implementation. I was wondering if you accepted the book proposal and if there will be a book on the topic.

    • Yael, I am thrilled to report (no pun intended) that this book just published. It’s by Maurice Elias et al and it’s titled “The Other Side of the Report Card.” You can find out more about it on our website, and please feel free to get in touch with me directly if you’d like to continue the dialogue:

  • You are spot on here! If kids do not know how to communicate and collaborate in a respectful and productive way, the goals of Common Core cannot be accomplished. However, it is important that we as teachers do not look at this as just another requirement to fit into our already overloaded schedules. Social/emotional education should be embedded in everything we do. Project-based learning or other similar teaching strategies that allow students to connect cross-cutting concepts through collaboration is a natural place to embed such instruction and assessment. These activities are usually assessed by rubric anyway, so social emotional learning can be a part of that rubric.

  • Loren and Lisa, thank you for your positive feedback. It is great to know that you are on the front lines and recognize and the importance of this topic while also making SEL a reality in our schools. What excites me about grading SEL is that if it’s part of the report card, it cannot be ignored. It reminds me somewhat of how much we emphasize math and literacy mainly because they are tested. I’d be interested in seeing how grading might change educators’ (and parents’) perceptions of its importance. Sonia, yes, our SLPs are a fantastic resource!

  • The speech language pathologists are a great resource for social skills.

    Also check out

  • Send me more, this is quite Interesting.

  • Jessica, you are so right. I am an elementary school counselor in Texas and our district has implemented an initiative name “Culture of Kindness.” Within this initiative is positive school wide rules, anti-bullying information and social skills. Just today I created a plan to teach character traits throughout the year during our live school announcements. I also plan to have teacher discuss senarios about each trait so that the teachers are directly involved in the teaching of social and emotional skills. We will not take grades on these activities but teaching them is a must since many families are not. It’s about teaching the children and helping them become well rounded productive citizen, not absent parenting.

  • What a great topic! I was speaking with a supervisor today regarding the idea of having one of our three pre-K integrated classrooms serve solely as a social skills community room: a classroom where students would rotate through, and participate in specific, skills-driven social skill curriculum. So important since social skills are the gateway to learning. (In my opinion.) Regarding an actual grade, I would propose using a continuum scale, such as, “Progressing towards…” “Needing Assistance with…” “Difficulty with…” “Achieved…”
    Just off the top of my head 🙂
    Look forward to reading the input from others.

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