California’s nine CORE districts, which include Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland, are researching the link between students’ social and emotional skills, such as perseverance, confidence and collaboration, and academic achievement, writes John Fensterwald on EdSource. Rating schools by students’ social-emotional skills — as measured by student surveys — is the next, very controversial step.
The experiment is worth pursuing, writes Martin West, a Harvard education professor and Brookings fellow.
Some CORE districts, including San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento City, are trying to integrate teaching social-emotional skills into their curriculums and classroom activities, writes Fensterwald.
The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requires states to include at least one non-academic indicator of school or student success.
CORE’s surveys of four social-emotional skills — self-management, growth mindset, self-efficacy and social awareness — are valid predictors of academic achievement, West concludes. (The statistical reliability is not as strong for third and fourth graders.)
Middle schoolers’ self-ratings in social-emotional skills correlated with their schools’ math and English test scores, rates of suspension and absenteeism and students’ grade point averages, the study found. Self-management skills showed the strongest link.
Social-emotional factors will count only for 8 percent of CORE’s new School Quality Improvement Index, which CORE introduced this year without including the social-emotional survey ratings. That will came next fall.
CORE’s hope is that schools with high ratings will share what they do well, and schools with low ratings, particularly with subgroups of struggling students, will change instructional approaches. But many researchers remain skeptical of including soft, potentially manipulable measures for school accountability.
Using social-emotional skills ratings in a high-stakes setting — or even a low-stakes setting — could be problematic, West acknowledges. But he thinks the CORE experiment is “an enormous learning opportunity.”