Policymakers increasingly recognize that social and emotional development plays a critical role in students’ ability to learn, and are enacting policies to encourage the integration of social and emotional learning (SEL) into school curricula. Many state policies already provide a foundation for including SEL in schools; however, policymakers should also consider policies that incorporate a holistic vision of SEL that creates healthy learning environments for all children.
Child Trends, in partnership with the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago and EMT Associates, Inc., recently completed an analysis of state statutes and regulations (enacted as of September 2017) aligned with the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model of school health.
We found that most states already have policies that support components of SEL in schools. Such policies, though, are often limited in their vision of SEL and disconnected from other critical components of healthy school environments.
Many existing state policies reflect earlier efforts to build character education, conflict resolution, and similar skills into the fabric of teaching and learning. Although character education and social emotional learning are not fully interchangeable, these policies can support SEL’s integration into schools. Together, 30 states and the District of Columbia already have statutes and regulations that encourage or require SEL or character education programs in schools. Only about half of these states (15), however, mandate the inclusion of such programs in schools.