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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Don’t Bother Me: Four Things You Should Know about Adolescent Anxiety Disorders

From PsychCentral

By Richard Taite
August 9, 2016

My children are still quite small, but I know the day is coming fast when they will be teens. That means while raising my kids to be competent, engaged adults, I am at the same time looking out for potential problems, including anxiety.

What’s the difference between a moody teenager and a young person too anxious to leave his or her room?

While wanting more independence from adults is a natural part of teenage years, when teens experience a level of anxiety that interferes with their daily functioning it is not only unhealthy, it could be a sign of the onset of an anxiety disorder.



Here are four things all parents and family members of teens should understand about anxiety disorders and why you should be on the lookout for them in your child’s behavior.

1.) Anxiety in adolescence is common. The onset of anxiety and other mental health disorders occurs among adolescents with surprising frequency. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates as many as one in four teens between the ages of 13 and 18 have an anxiety disorder.

It’s natural to be worried about a child who displays symptoms of excessive anxiety, but understand that many families have been in your shoes and have found ways to help their children build better coping skills and ultimately thrive.

2.) Don’t call it a “phase.” It’s easy to dismiss excessive anxiety as simply another “phase” your teens are going through as they mature from children to young, independent adults. But trying to minimize or dismiss a health concern like an anxiety disorder won’t do anyone any favors. Take your teens, their emotions and their thoughts, seriously in order to get them the help they need to avoid the unnecessary pain caused by excessive anxiety.

3.) Help doesn’t have to mean medicine. If you suspect that your teen may be experiencing the onset of an anxiety disorder, don’t panic. You have many options going forward that will help you and your teen. Most importantly, if you are worried about your teen, make sure you take time to talk with him or her directly about these issues and involve your teen in the treatment process.

Once everyone is on the same page, consider a whole host of treatment options including therapy, extracurricular activities, and even mindfulness practices, to help your teen better understand and overcome his or her condition.

4.) Treatment now means fewer problems later. One of the biggest factors contributing to anxiety disorders, especially in children, is a lack of adequate coping mechanisms to handle common stressors such as preparing for a big test, the poor health of a parent, or violence experienced nearby or witnessed on television/social media.

By recognizing your teens’ anxiety and working together to take action and get them help, you and your teens are making an intentional effort to build healthy coping mechanisms that your children will continue to use throughout their lifetime.

Recognizing a mental health condition in your child can trigger your own worst fears, making you wonder if the condition is somehow your fault. But by being aware of your children’s changing behavior, listening to them, taking them seriously and getting them the help they need, you can be sure you’re doing everything you can to give them the hand up they require to deal effectively with anxiety.


Recovery is common and anxiety expressed now does not mean a lifetime sentence of “disorders.” Just knowing you are there to support them will go a long way toward making your teens feel less anxious.

(Special Education) Procedural Safeguards - The Series: Part III

From Jim Gerl's Special Education Law Blog

By Jim Gerl, Esq.
August 27, 2016

This is the third installment in a multi-part series on procedural safeguards under the federal special education law, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.
Despite the importance of procedural safeguards. however, many issues in this area are misunderstood. This post concerns parental consent.

Parental Consent

Where the parent does not provide consent for the initial evaluation, the school district may invoke procedural safeguards, such as mediation or a due process hearing, to pursue such evaluation. Section 614 (a)(1)(D)(ii)(I).

If the parent refuses to consent to services for the child, however, the school district shall not provide special education and related services to the child and the district may not invoke mediation or the due process hearing system. Section 614 (a)(1)(D)(ii)(II).

Where the parent refuses to consent to services or fails to respond to a request to provide such services, the school district is relieved of the obligation to provide FAPE to the student and is not required to convene an IEP team meeting or to develop an IEP for the child. Section 614 (a)(1)(D)(ii)(III)(aa) and (bb).

OSEP has clarified that a school district must make reasonable efforts to obtain the informed parental consent for an initial evaluation and document these efforts in the same manner as documenting efforts to obtain parent participation in IEP team meetings. 71 Fed. Register No. 156 at page 46631 (August 14, 2006).

A school district may, but is not required to, utilize the procedural safeguards to obtain parental consent for an evaluation although OSEP believes the override procedures should be used only in rare circumstances. 71 Fed. Register No. 156 at page 46632 (August 14, 2006).

The reasonable efforts required of a school district do not require the convening of an IEP team meeting, although a school district may convene an IEP team meeting in order to obtain informed consent. 71 Fed. Register No. 156 at page 46634 (August 14, 2006).

Where a child is home schooled or placed by his parents in a private school at their own expense, the school district may not use the procedural safeguards to attempt an override of lack of consent. 34 CFR Section 300.300(d)(4); 71 Fed. Register No. 156 at page 46635 (August 14, 2006).

Revocation of Consent

The federal Office of Special Education Programs made several changes to the federal IDEA regulations effective on December 31, 2008. The most significant change involved parental revocation of consent. 34 C.F.R. Sections 300.300 and 300.9 were amended to provide that parents are now permitted to revoke in writing their consent for the continued provision of special education and related services after having received services.

School districts are no longer able to use mediation or a due process hearing to seek to override or challenge the parents’ lack of consent. School districts will not be deemed to be in violation of the ACT for denial of FAPE where the parent has revoked consent to the continued provision of special education and related services

Where a parent revokes consent, mediation may not be used to ensure that the revocation of consent was informed. Letter to Gerl 59 IDELR 200 (OSEP 6/6/2012).

Concerning the situation where a parent revokes consent and the student then gets disciplined, OSEP said the following in a June, 2009 Q & A document:
  • Question A-3: Do the discipline provisions apply if the child violates the school’s code of student conduct after a parent revokes consent for special education and related services under §300.300(b)?
  • Answer: No. Under §§ 300.9 and 300.300, parents are permitted to unilaterally withdraw their children from further receipt of special education and related services by revoking their consent for the continued provision of special education and related services to their children. When a parent revokes consent for special education and related services under §300.300(b), the parent has refused services as described in §300.534(c)(1)(ii); therefore, the public agency is not deemed to have knowledge that the child is a child with a disability and the child will be subject to the same disciplinary procedures and timelines applicable to general education students and not entitled to IDEA’s discipline protections. It is expected that parents will take into account the possible consequences under the discipline procedures before revoking consent for the provision of special education and related services. 73 Federal Register 73012-73013.

You can find the entire Q& A document HERE.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Early Autism Diagnosis Key To Effective Treatment, Study Finds

From The Oregonian
via DisabilityScoop

By Kale Williams
August 16, 2016

Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder before the age of 4 are more likely to get effective treatment than those who are determined to have the disorder after that threshold, researchers at Oregon Health and Science University found.

Additionally, researchers found that longer delays between when parents first discuss concerns about their children with their health provider and when a diagnosis is reached were linked with a higher use of alternative and complementary medicine, which have not been shown to be as effective as behavioral therapy.

The findings come in a study published online this month in Psychiatric Services, an academic journal, led by Katharine Zuckerman, a professor of pediatrics at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at OHSU.

“The problem is, in the U.S., kids just aren’t getting screened,” Zuckerman told the Oregonian/OregonLive.

Past research has shown the most effective treatment for the disorder is behavioral intervention therapy aimed directly at core autism symptoms like impaired social skills and inflexible behaviors.

“The strongest treatment comes from a child working intensively with a therapist one-on-one specifically on their symptoms, which can be trouble with social interaction or repetitive actions that get in the way of normal behavior,” Zuckerman said.

Early treatment of these symptoms can pay long-term dividends for children’s functioning as they grow up, but there’s no way to know what type of treatment a child needs until they’ve been diagnosed.

Zuckerman and other researchers analyzed the experiences of more than 700 children between the ages of 6 and 11 with autism spectrum disorder. The team looked at the use of a wide variety of health services, including behavioral intervention therapy or school-based therapy — which can include social skills training, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or speech and language therapy.

They also evaluated the effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine, such as nutritional supplements, and psychotropic medications, but those treatments don’t have the same level of evidence supporting their effectiveness.

Beyond that, researchers found that parents usually first brought up developmental concerns with their doctor when their child was just over 2 years old, but the average age for diagnosis was over the age of 4.

Use of complementary and alternative medicine was nearly twice as likely for children with delays of longer than 2 years, according to the study.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended all children be screened for autism at both 18 and 24 months, but only about half of primary care practitioners screen for the disorder. Although the disorder can usually be detected by the age of 2, the average age for diagnosis is over 4, Zuckerman said.

“Most pediatricians still aren’t doing it,” she said of early screenings. “There is a problem of awareness and some doctors don’t know what to do if they get a positive test. Whether the parents are unaware or the doctors are uneducated, it’s a big problem for the health care system.”

Zuckerman recommended that parents who think their child might be showing symptoms of the disorder take an online screening, which can predict a positive diagnosis with about 50 percent accuracy.

Why Freshman Year Was a Strikeout: Poor Executive Function Skills

From Beyond BookSmart's
Executive Functioning Strategies Blog

By Jennifer Flewelling, M.Ed.
August 8, 2016

In my first year of college I attended a small, private school in southern New Hampshire. My 18-year-old self was thrilled at the prospect of starting this new adventure. This would be my first experience living away from home, fending for myself, and being completely self-reliant. I could not have been more excited!

And, as it turns out, I could not have been more ill-prepared...

I admit, I was overwhelmed with the freedom freshman year provided me. Being my first time unmonitored by my parents, I felt incredibly liberated to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and with whom I wanted. I became engrossed in the social dynamics of college and my focus on academics diminished.


Repeatedly I assured myself, “That will get done tomorrow…I’ll take care of that tonight…this can wait until later…”

The problem was, of course, that the tasks that should have been the focus of my time and effort, like homework and studying for exams, ended up on the bottom of the To-Do list for the day. My grades fell - fast - and I found myself sliding deeper and deeper into an academic hole, with the startling realization that mom and dad were not there to help pull me up.

Depression and anxiety were my silent partners that year - always present and lingering in the background. The fact of the matter was that I had set off on my collegiate journey with poor executive function skills in three key areas. And I paid the price.



Planning and Prioritizing

As a freshman student, I carried a course load of 15 credits each semester. Managing five courses at a time requires keen skills in planning and prioritizing. I didn’t know how to establish priorities and order my work in terms of urgency and importance. I hadn’t developed strategies for accomplishing tasks within a given time period.


Instead of taking a holistic approach to managing my course work, I fell into the bad habit of living day to day, or hour to hour, struggling to keep pace with assignment due dates.

Poor planning and prioritizing skills: strike one.


Task Initiation

Homework has never been a preferred task in my world. My poor father tried everything he could think of to entice me to do homework. He would spend hours sitting with me, prompting me to generate ideas and consider what the teachers were expecting within an assignment. At one point my father actually made signs, “Just Do It” with the Nike swoosh as an added graphic, and hung them throughout my room in an attempt to somehow motivate me to begin my studies.

I was a bright child and perfectly capable of mastering challenging content, but I felt perpetually stuck at the start of any assignment or project. In college this proved to be disastrous.

I avoided writing papers for my classes, because I could not figure out how to get started and the assignment felt so daunting that I emotionally shut down. As the looming deadlines moved closer and my anxiety rose, it prompted me to push it out of my mind and continue to avoid the task.

Poor task initiation skills: strike two.


Time Management

One of the challenges I faced freshman year was effectively budgeting my time. I didn’t know how to allot the requisite amount of time to complete a task. I frequently underestimated the time needed for an assignment, waited too long to begin my studies for the evening, and ended up struggling through all-nighters. And I never seemed to learn from my mistakes and recalibrate for the next time.

Poor time management skills: strike three.


And before I knew it, I was out.

I ended up transferring to a school close to home. I moved back in with my family and spent the next three years commuting to school and learning day by day, for the first time ever, how to be an effective student. My freshman experience would have been markedly different had I come to bat with the executive function skills I needed to manage my academic workload.


Paying It Forward

Fortunately, I have taken my rough start at college, and subsequent turnaround, as a way to connect with the students I coach.

I teach them how to review each class syllabus at the start of the semester and begin populating their calendars with assigned due dates, for example. My students learn how to break down long term assignments into smaller, more manageable steps and assign to each step a designated timeframe.


To support task initiation, I now coach students to employ the 5-Minute Goal strategy, in which they determine one or two specific outcomes to be achieved in the next 5 minutes of study time.

My students also recognize how graphic organizers can help put writing assignments in perspective and under control.

In time, I developed the skills and strategies necessary to manage my course load, a part-time job, a social life, and I even joined the tennis team in my junior year. College ended on a high note for me, thankfully.


.........................................................

Jennifer Flewelling, M.Ed. is an Executive Function coach with Beyond BookSmart, as well as a certified elementary school teacher and principal, with 17 years experience in education. Jennifer has developed English Language Arts curricula, consulted with local school districts, and is now instructing in teacher preparation and educational leadership programs at Salem State University and Endicott College. A graduate of Salem State University, Jennifer spearheaded various general education initiatives focusing on supporting students’ academic, social, and emotional growth.

Can a Private Company Teach Troubled Kids?

From The Atlantic

By Alexia Fernandez Campbell
August 27, 2016

At the Richmond Alternative School in Virginia, 97 percent of students are black and 87 percent are poor, and the city just outsourced their education.

Richmond, Virginia, recently outsourced operations of the Richmond
Alternative School to Camelot Education, a company based in Austin, Texas.

Disruptive students are a headache for public schools. They distract from lessons, skip class, and often bring down the graduation rates. That’s why school districts across the country have resorted to opening alternative schools in recent decades, with hopes that smaller classes and individual attention might help these students get their diplomas. But even these alternative schools (which differ from charter schools in that they are still part of school districts and thus answer to superintendents) can be a burden: They’re expensive to run, and their graduation rates are still pretty low.

Desperate for help, many school districts are now hiring private companies to manage these alternative schools and educate their most troublesome students. Large, urban districts like Chicago and Philadelphia have been working with this emerging industry for several years now. Though research shows that problematic students in Philadelphia did better in alternative schools than traditional ones, there is a wide variance in school quality, and detailed information about their curricula is scarce.

The question on the table is whether a business whose job it is to make money can better educate vulnerable students than a public system with no profit motive. It’s not too different from the dynamic between the federal government and the private companies running its prisons across the country. But the Justice Department announced last week that it would stop contracting with the private sector, in part because it doesn’t seem to save that much money, and in part because the service didn’t improve either.

Richmond is one of the latest cities to experiment with outsourcing education. In July, the city hired a Texas-based company called Camelot Education to run the Richmond Alternative School, which last year served 223 students from across the city in grades 6 through 11. Nearly all of the students at Richmond Alternative are black (97 percent) and most are poor (87 percent qualify for free lunches).


Some black parents once dubbed it the “colored children’s prison” and it has been criticized for contributing to what’s called the school-to-prison pipeline—Virginia is the state that refers the most students to law enforcement.

Data provided by Richmond’s school district shows that its alternative school has been floundering for years. When the school year ended three months ago, the numbers were alarming: The dropout rate had jumped to 38 percent, compared to 28 percent just two years earlier. And students’ scores in nearly every subject had fallen by 50 percent or more during that time.

“It’s at a point where we know something has to change. Trying something new is better than doing the same old thing.”

This led the school board to enlist Camelot, which has run alternative schools in 12 districts across the country. It was a quick decision that may have been too hasty, says Jessee Perry, who is running for a position on the school board, and it concerns her that it happened right before the beginning of the school year. “But it’s at a point where we know something has to change,” she says. “Trying something new is better than doing the same old thing.”

The turn to the private sector is not new for Richmond. In 2004, the city hired a private company to run a previous iteration of its alternative school, which was then called the Capital City Program. The $4.6 million agreement with a Tennessee-based company called Community Education Partners was the school district’s most expensive contract that year. Back then, the school was located next to the Gilpin Court housing projects, in one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods.

The quality of the education provided by Community Education Partners turned out to be substandard, according to a Richmond Magazine investigation, which found that a third of the school’s teachers were not credentialed.

Elsewhere, schools run by Community Education Partners were not faring much better. The American Civil Liberties Union in Georgia sued the company in 2008 for allegedly providing “fundamentally inferior” education to students at an alternative school in Atlanta—an environment “so violent and intimidating that learning is all but impossible.” Atlanta canceled its contract with the company, and a year later, so did the city of Philadelphia.

When the firm’s contract with Richmond was up in 2013, the school board decided the district would take over the school again, saving it about $2 million a year. The school was moved away from Gilpin Court and into an old high-school building across the interstate. But student performance did not improve, as the district’s data shows.


So, as of July, it has a $1.8 million contract with Camelot, and has agreed to provide additional support staff at a cost of $800,000, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

During a recent visit to Richmond, I stopped by the school and it was buzzing with activity. Moving trucks were parked outside and crews were unloading teaching materials and what appeared to be furniture. School staff didn’t want to talk about the changes, and instead referred me to the district’s spokeswoman, who also declined to discuss them.

The district did, however, provide this statement:

“Camelot will staff the school with educators who are licensed in specific content areas that are trained in behavior modification, de-escalation techniques, and who are experienced at working in nontraditional environments. The expectation is that this company will assist staff at the school in setting clear performance metrics such as enhancing the school climate, reducing absenteeism, and increasing the graduation rate.”

The district’s own teachers, who have been at Richmond Alternative for the past couple school years, were not trained to handle students who are prone to violence or who are dealing with trauma. This is something Camelot’s CEO, Todd Bock, says his staff is equipped to do. That’s because the company started out as a behavioral healthcare provider for teens before branching out into education in 2003.

"... our approach is to address the social-emotional and behavioral issues of our students first, because without that you can't access academics.”

He says the company’s expertise is working with vulnerable teens who are at risk of dropping out of school or ending up in jail. Bock says staff at Camelot schools know the parents and guardians of each student and are aware of challenges they face at home. “So our approach is to address the social-emotional and behavioral issues of our students first, because without that you can't access academics,” he tells me.

For example, every day at a Camelot school begins and ends with a town-hall meeting, Bock says, where teachers and staff are encouraged to talk to students on a personal level. If a student acts up in class, protocol is for the teacher to stop and address the student’s behavior, instead of automatically sending him or her to the principal’s office. The policy at Richmond Alternative will be to suspend kids only if they break the law or if there is a need to call the police.

“Frankly, suspending kids that have been suspended their whole life is a failure on our part,” he says. “We need to do everything we can to support kids and keep them where they need to be, which is in school.”Companies such as Camelot can pay teachers less if they choose to, as they are not subject to collective bargaining agreements with the local teachers’ union.

The teachers who have been working at Richmond Alternative the past few years will have an opportunity to interview for teaching positions with Camelot, Bock says, but, if hired, they will be required to undergo the company’s de-escalation and behavior modification training. Companies such as Camelot can pay teachers less if they choose to, as they are not subject to collective bargaining agreements with the local teachers’ union.

This may be the first time that Richmond will work with Camelot, but data on the company’s presence in Philadelphia provides a fuller picture of its track record. Camelot was one of half a dozen companies running Philadelphia’s alternative schools in the past decade, the largest experiment in privatizing alternative education to date.

The city first turned to the private sector in 2004, with mixed results. In 2010, researchers at Mathematica Policy Research studied the academic outcomes of students in Philadelphia’s 14 alternative schools, which were all privately run, and compared them to the outcomes of similar students who stayed in traditional schools. Their research showed that students at alternative schools were more likely to pass their classes and graduate than similarly at-risk peers at traditional public schools. But graduation rates at alternative schools were still “abysmal,” says Hanley Chiang, the report’s main author.

About 29 percent of students graduated from alternative schools, compared to about 22 percent of at-risk students who stayed at traditional high schools. “There is still a lot of room for improvement in getting these graduation rates up,” says Chiang.

His research also showed that instructional quality varies greatly among providers, with Camelot performing the best among those working in Philadelphia’s schools at the time. Graduation rates at Camelot schools increased by 12 percentage points compared to similar students who stayed in their original schools, while one provider, YouFirst (run by Community Education Partners) actually had a negative impact on graduation rates, which were lower by 14 percentage points.

Chiang’s research didn’t look at whether the school district could have done a better job educating these students compared to the private firms. “The evidence is silent on that,” he says.

Despite its relative success in Philadelphia, Camelot has been criticized by the ACLU for a creating a “highly restrictive and overtly confrontational environment” at an alternative school it operates in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The school, Phoenix Academy, was mentioned in a class-action lawsuit filed last month by the ACLU against the Lancaster School District, alleging that the district unfairly sends foreign-born students to the school just because they don’t speak English well.

Perry, the Richmond school-board candidate, says she’s concerned about school districts relying on a for-profit model to educate their most vulnerable students. To keep making money, these companies benefit from maintaining a system where traditional schools cannot educate their own students. “They might also be tempted to cut costs, which can definitely hurt the quality of the education,” she says.

For now, Richmond is counting on Camelot to do a better job than its school district has in getting high-school diplomas in the hands of their worst-performing students. As Camelot’s CEO says, the district can always fire the company if it doesn’t deliver results.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Making Whole-Child Education the Norm

From the Economic Policy Institute

By Emma García and Elaine Weiss
August 24, 2016

How research and policy initiatives can make social and emotional skills a focal point of children’s education.

Summary

Traits and skills such as critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, persistence, and self-control—which are often collectively called noncognitive skills, or social and emotional skills—are vitally important to children’s full development. 
They are linked to academic achievement, productivity and collegiality at work, positive health indicators, and civic participation, and are nurtured through life and school experiences.

Developing these skills should thus be an explicit goal of public education. This can be achieved through research and policy initiatives involving better defining and measuring these skills; designing broader curricula to promote these skills; ensuring that teachers’ preparation and professional support are geared toward developing these skills in their students; revisiting school disciplinary policies, which are often at odds with the nurturing of these skills; and broadening assessment and accountability practices to make the development of the whole child central to education policy.

Download the entire report (18 pages; PDF) HERE.

Introduction and Key Points

The importance of so-called noncognitive skills—which include abilities and traits such as critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, social skills, persistence, creativity, and self-control—manifests itself in multiple ways throughout our lives. For example, having greater focus as a student improves the acquisition of skills, and creativity is widely associated with artistic abilities. Persistence and communication skills are critical to success at work, and respect and tolerance contribute to strong social and civic relationships.

But support for noncognitive skills—also commonly referred to as social and emotional skills—extends far beyond this casual recognition of their impact. Empirical research finds clear connections between various noncognitive skills and positive life outcomes.

Indeed, researchers have focused on assessing which skills matter and why, how they are measured, and how and when these skills are developed, including the mutually reinforcing development of noncognitive and cognitive abilities during students’ years in school. (1)

At the same time, there are clear challenges inherent in this work, including those associated with data availability (in terms of measurement, validity, and reliability), the difficulty of establishing causality, and the need to bridge gaps across various areas of research. This points to the need to exercise caution when designing education policies and practices that aim to nurture noncognitive skills.

Nonetheless, given the crucial role that noncognitive skills play in supporting the development of cognitive skills—as well as the importance of noncognitive skills in their own right—this is an issue of great importance for policymakers.

Moreover, there is increased recognition, both domestically and internationally, that noncognitive skills are integral to a wider conceptualization of what it means to be an educated person. Indeed, UNESCO’s Incheon Declaration for Education 2030, which sets forth an international consensus on the new vision for education for the next 15 years, states,

“Relevant learning outcomes must be well defined in cognitive and non-cognitive domains, and continually assessed as an integral part of the teaching and learning process. Quality education includes the development of those skills, values, attitudes and knowledge that enable citizens to lead healthy and fulfilled lives, make informed decisions and respond to local and global challenges.” (2)

This policy brief, which focuses on a set of skills that can and should be taught in schools, is based on a body of scholarly literature that tends to use the term “noncognitive skills” over others. James Heckman, a prominent, Nobel Prize–winning economist, has dubbed these skills “dark matter” in recognition of their varied nature and the challenge of accurately labeling them.

Various fields and experts call them social and emotional skills, behavioral skills, inter- and intra-personal skills, and life skills, among other terms, but this brief does not aim to settle this issue. We therefore use noncognitive throughout in many places, as well as social and emotional skills and other terms.

This brief explains why it is so important that we incorporate these skills into the goals and components of public education, and lays out the steps necessary to make that happen.

Key points include:

  • There exist significant associations between noncognitive skills and outcomes such as productivity and collegiality at work, positive health indicators, and civic participation. There is likewise extensive evidence of the connections between noncognitive skills and academic achievement. And beyond their practical import, they are simply positive attributes.
  • Research on the development of noncognitive skills suggests these skills are malleable, rather than fixed, and that they are responsive to differences in school quality, children’s environment, and various parental investments.
  • Since noncognitive skills matter and can be nurtured in schools, developing them should be an explicit goal of public education. In practice, however, mainstream K–12 education policy has not generally prioritized the development of these skills in the classroom, and neither education policies nor the organization of resources tend to be shaped to support or incentivize schools to do so.
  • As we seek to better understand how to incorporate noncognitive skills into policy and practice, pilot examples provide models from which to learn and adapt. These examples can help inform the research and policy initiatives, and the thinking about school design and culture, needed to make these skills a core component of education:
  1. Better defining and measuring these skills: Integrating social emotional skills into the education policy agenda requires, first, the identification of a satisfactory and concrete list of these skills, and systems or scales to measure them. Measurement and methodological research are required to validate a complete and accurate list of education-related noncognitive skills, and to provide metrics that are both reliable and usable.
  2. Broadening the curriculum: The identification of those noncognitive skills that play important roles in education should prompt a discussion of how to design broader curricula and specific instructional strategies to promote those skills, including promoting school and classroom environments conducive to them.
  3. Enhancing teacher preparation, training, and support: Fully integrating noncognitive skills into the curriculum also requires that teachers’ preparation and professional support are geared toward the development of these skills in their students, as well as an emphasis on the importance of relationships.
  4. Revisiting school disciplinary policies: Many current disciplinary measures used to combat student misbehavior are at odds with the goal of nurturing noncognitive skills. Disciplinary measures should be rooted in schools’ efforts to support and promote better behavior, and in the prevention of misbehavior, rather than simply or mainly in punishing wrongdoing.
  5. Broadening assessment and accountability: Accountability practices and policies must be broadened to make explicit the expectation that schools and teachers contribute to the development of noncognitive skills and to make the development of the whole child central to the mission of education policy. Specifically, incentives promoted by an enhanced accountability system should be aligned with broadening the curriculum, cultivating the proper climate within the school, promoting teachers’ investment in strong relationships with their students, and ensuring teaching time for strategies that are conducive to the development of both noncognitive and cognitive skills.


Noncognitive Skills are Important Drivers of Cognitive Skills and of Broader School and Life Outcomes

Noncognitive skills—the generic term that represents “patterns of thought, feelings and behavior that may develop throughout our lives (i.e., are not fixed traits of personality)” (3)—allow us to succeed in our public lives, workplaces, homes, and other societal contexts and to contribute meaningfully to society. A solid body of research demonstrates the significant associations between noncognitive skills and other adult outcomes, including productivity and collegiality at work, positive health indicators, and civic participation.

There is likewise extensive evidence of the connections between noncognitive skills and academic achievement. And beyond their practical import, they are simply positive attributes.

Here we briefly summarize what is known regarding the influence of noncognitive skills on cognitive skills and other school and life outcomes.

A study of over 200 socio-emotional interventions in the United States targeting children from kindergarten through high school (ages 5–18) concluded that participating students exhibited higher academic achievement, with the gain in performance estimated to be equivalent to 11 percentile points. (4)

Executive function skills—self-regulation and self-control, which are predictive of better behavior in the classroom—are correlated with improvements in grades and other measures of academic performance. (5)

And a construct of social competence in kindergarten—the ability to complete tasks and manage responsibilities, and effective handling of social and emotional experiences—is associated with a range of key outcomes for children and young adults across multiple domains of education, including reduced years of special education, fewer repeated grades, and higher rates of on-time high school graduation and college completion. (6)

As noted above, however, the importance of noncognitive skills extends far beyond academic outcomes. Employers have long reported in surveys that they highly value a range of noncognitive skills in their search for good employees. Indeed, they place skills such as verbal communication, teamwork/collaboration, professionalism/work ethic, and critical thinking/problem-solving at the top of their list of traits that are critical for workplace success. (7)

Positive relationships have been found between socio-emotional skills and social competence and employment outcomes (such as having stable employment or being employed full time), while weak noncognitive skills are associated with a variety of negative life outcomes. These include:
  • reliance on public assistance (e.g., being on a waiting list for public housing, receiving public assistance, or receiving unemployment compensation);
  • criminal activity (e.g., being arrested for a severe offense, ever having been arrested, ever having made a court appearance, ever having had police contact, ever having stayed in a detention facility);
  • substance use (e.g., alcohol dependence, drug dependence, having smoked regularly in the past month, number of days of binge drinking in the past month, number of days of marijuana use in the past month); and,
  • poor mental health (e.g., externalizing problems, internalizing problems, number of years on medications). (8)

Finally, noncognitive skills are centrally important to a person’s ability to live a full life, including active participation as a family member, neighbor, and engaged democratic citizen. Noncognitive skills increase trust and the probability of voting and decrease the probability of being divorced. (9
They also correlate with improved life satisfaction. (10)

Being able to get along with others; to share, consider, and respect alternative points of view; and to prioritize broad societal goals are all related to noncognitive skills that are developed early in life and that distinguish strong parents, good neighbors, and engaged citizens from their less constructive and less successful peers.

Noncognitive Skills are the Result of Multiple Factors That Emerge at Various Points in Children’s Development

Research on the factors driving the development of social and emotional skills supports the premise that these skills are malleable, rather than fixed, and that they are responsive to differences in school quality, children’s environment, and various parental investments. (11)

There is less agreement, though, on whether they are more or less malleable than cognitive skills, on whether all noncognitive skills can be developed in school, and on the degree to which their capacity for development is constant across ages and grades. (12)

What is known for certain is that these skills have their origins in the very earliest years of children’s lives. Brain research conducted in recent decades increasingly affirms that the foundations for both types of skills—cognitive and noncognitive—are established starting at birth, and even before.

One in particular, the ability to form strong and trusting relationships with others, has been extensively studied. As neurobiologist Jack Shonkoff and his colleagues at the Harvard Center on the Developing Child document, the “serve-and-return” interactions between infants and their parents and other caretakers play key roles in the development of this trait; when babies cry and mothers pick them up, or when they smile and their fathers smile back and reward them with a happy noise or play time, these interactions begin to lay the foundations for trust, confidence, and other relationship-building skills. (13)

The years leading up to school entry and the first years of formal schooling are, thus, key windows of opportunity for the development of noncognitive skills. Unfortunately, we see the same divisions with respect to these opportunities as we do with cognitive skill development: Children who are disadvantaged by poverty and other factors develop noncognitive skills more slowly, and are less likely to have access to the supports to boost these skills. They thus begin school behind, putting themselves, their teachers, and their classmates at a disadvantage.

Indeed, a recent study documents how large these early gaps are by the time of school entry. (14) While income-based gaps in reading and math are much larger than those in skills such as self-control and approaches to learning, as assessed by teachers (a full standard deviation versus about half of a standard deviation, respectively), both gaps are strongly statistically significant and of real practical importance.

With respect to family and school determinants of noncognitive skills, a recent study using OECD’s 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data for Mexico finds that families’ valuing of attitudes and behavior toward education are predictive of noncognitive performance. (15)

Specifically, students whose parents are highly satisfied with the school environment and how discipline is handled, who believe that the school is educating their children well, who have high expectations for their children’s educational attainment, and who provide those children with the educational resources they need, tend to have higher noncognitive skills. (The noncognitive factors included in the PISA 2012 data are perseverance, sense of belonging to school, engagement with teachers, and attitude toward school—particularly a belief in the long-term value of school and a belief that effort will be rewarded.)

Importantly, this research also shows that the associations between family and school characteristics and noncognitive skills differ depending on which factors are assessed. For example, a family’s wealth was statistically associated with all the noncognitive factors explored in the analysis aside from students’ sense of belonging to the school, and the proportion of qualified teachers was not statistically associated with perseverance or engagement with teachers, though it was associated with sense of belonging and belief in the long-term value of school.

Thus, when exploring strategies that can nurture noncognitive skills, it is important to keep in mind that there is likely not a single unique strategy, but rather a variety or combination of strategies that can enhance children’s multiple cognitive capacities and behavioral characteristics. Moreover, this is true not only across skills, but also across ages and countries. (16)

Other research explains how K–12 schools can nurture the development of noncognitive skills, just as they advance children’s reading and math skills. And while this research is less extensive, the body of literature has increased significantly in recent years.

Indeed, four leading scholars of social and emotional learning collaborated in 2015 to bring together some of the most important work in this field with the goal of better incorporating noncognitive skills into education policy. (17) The resulting publication provides examples from various countries, states, school districts, and institutions, including the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and the Developmental Studies Center, among others, of how particular curricula, teaching methods, legislation, and school and teacher characteristics influence various noncognitive skills. (18)

And, a recent paper produced for Turnaround for Children sets forth a framework for how the development of a broad range of social and emotional skills can be a core part of helping struggling schools to improve. (19) The author conceives of these skills as scaffolded layers, with such foundational skills as self-regulation and stress management critical to enabling children to develop strong executive functions, then self-efficacy, and, ultimately, such top-level skills as agency, resilience, curiosity, and civic identity.

Moreover, although various skills are not often studied in an integrated way, the processes of socio-emotional development and cognitive development are intertwined. (20) An attempt to model this interrelationship finds that their interdependence is important across children’s entire schooling career. (21) And while noncognitive skills’ importance as a determinant of cognitive performance increases very little over the earlier grade levels, it steadily increases across the later grades.

In comparison, cognitive skills’ importance as a determinant of noncognitive skills significantly increases through the earlier grade levels (kindergarten through 3rd), and then decreases in later grade levels (5th through 8th). Although the author acknowledges the sensitivity of these patterns to the skills used to construct the indices, the strong simultaneous relationships point to the difficulty of trying to boost cognitive skills without actively nurturing noncognitive ones.

Indeed, evidence increasingly suggests that social and emotional skills are foundational to the development of others. So increased attention to noncognitive skills in education policy would improve all children’s opportunities and pathways to development.

Though Noncognitive Skills Can Be Nurtured in Schools, They Remain a Low Education Policy Priority

While there are still many unknowns regarding noncognitive skills’ impacts and how to best nurture them, what is known has significant implications for education policy. First and foremost, since noncognitive skills matter and can be nurtured in schools, developing them (or, at the very least, establishing structures that are conducive to their development) should be an explicit goal of public education.

In practice, however, mainstream K–12 education policy has not generally prioritized the development of these skills in the classroom, and education policies are rarely shaped to support or incentivize schools to do so. (22) As discussed in more detail below, in the United States, the transition from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 represents a definite shift to recognize the importance of the development of noncognitive skills. (23) Still, by far the greatest emphasis in policy—at the federal, state, and local levels—remains on traditional cognitive skills, with little alignment across the two areas.

This disconnect is attributable to several factors. First, some education policies established in recent decades have led schools to narrow their curriculum to focus on a small set of cognitive skills and to employ test preparation as a major instructional strategy (this emphasis on test preparation is sometimes called the “cognitive hypothesis”). (24) This same focus has meant that key factors in nurturing noncognitive skills, such as strong teacher–student relationships, and school and classroom environment, has been relegated to lower priorities. (25)

A second factor is the relative difficulty of measuring children’s abilities in noncognitive areas. We have long had instruments to assess skills in reading, math, and other cognitive skills such as knowledge of science and history. While they are far from perfect, they have provided teachers, parents, and policymakers with a decent sense of what students know and have supported substantial research on how these skills are produced.

In contrast, the accurate assessment of noncognitive skills is challenged not only by a dearth of reliable tests or other instruments, but, more fundamentally, by our failure to agree on valid, accepted framework, definitions, and metrics for them. Attempting to create such a list and set of definitions requires, among other things, that we specify as a society for what purposes and for whom the skills listed matter. (26)

Skills and corresponding measures “must [also] be culturally, educationally, age, and gender appropriate, and be sensitive enough to measure changes among program participants across regions and sectors of the world.” (27)

The difficulties associated with making these decisions are illustrated, for example, by the need to rely on self-reporting by adults or by children themselves on those children’s noncognitive skills. Not surprisingly, those assessments can thus vary substantially; one recent study reports that parents and teachers provide different assessments of similar skills—including self-control, persistence, and the ability to relate well to others—among the same children. (28)

Strong disagreement among leading scholars as to the wisdom of using self-reported ratings of four key social-emotional skills by students in nine California districts as part of school performance indices reflects, among other things, similar concerns about their reliability and potential to be gamed. (29) Moreover, as asserted in a recent paper, we are still in the very early stages of defining these skills and determining which can and should be actively nurtured in schools. (30)

Here, we briefly set forth some policy changes that will help make noncognitive skills a core component of children’s education.

Making Noncognitive Skills a Core Component of Education Will Require Specific Policy Changes


While a broad range of social and emotional skills can be intentionally supported and developed, some are likely better suited to being nurtured in school settings, others at home, and yet others in multiple settings. It is thus important that researchers and practitioners work together to better identify these skills and to distinguish which belong in which of those categories. Indeed, one recent paper emphasizes the need for a distinct list of those that are best developed in schools and that should, thus, be higher priorities for education policies. (31)

The suggested list, called the “education policy list of noncognitive skills,” was intended to jumpstart the needed conversation about how to define and distinguish the various skills. The list includes critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, emotional health, work ethic, community responsibility, social skills (closeness, affection and open communication with both peers and teachers), self-control, self-regulation, persistence, academic confidence, teamwork, organizational skills, creativity, and communication skills. (32)

Despite the numerous challenges noted above, social and emotional skills are beginning to occupy a more central role in discussions about education. This prompts the need for thoughtful and concerted attention from researchers, policymakers, and practitioners regarding education policy components that must be considered in order to effect changes in how noncognitive skills are nurtured and advanced in schools, and to make the development of the whole child central to the mission of education policy. (33)

Some such attention is beginning to be evident. For example, the new requirement under ESSA that states report at least one new measure of student progress, beyond the traditional academic ones, is prompting states, districts, and schools to engage in discussions about which ones to use and how to measure and report them. In the best cases, it has sparked conversations about schools’ role in ensuring the full development of children.

It is also driving concerns among social-emotional learning (SEL) experts about the potential to settle too quickly on poor constructs and/or to use the data that are collected for counterproductive purposes.

Targeted research can help us take several key steps to increase schools’ capacity to nurture and support the skills relevant to them. These include accurately measuring and assessing these skills as part of testing; integrating their development within curricula across all subjects; better training and supporting teachers to nurture them in their everyday instruction and classroom activities, including through a focus on building strong relationships; and reshaping our accountability framework at each level of government. (34)

Better Defining and Measuring Skills

Integrating social and emotional skills into the education policy agenda requires, first, the identification of a satisfactory and concrete list of these skills, and developing systems and scales to measure them. Measurement and methodological research are required to validate a complete and accurate list of education-related noncognitive skills, and to provide metrics that are both reliable and usable.

Understanding and improving student–teacher relationships is core to getting this work right. Indeed, one example to build from is Robert Pianta’s Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) for classroom protocols, which documents the interactions between early childhood teachers and students in domains like behavior management and instructional dialogue, and accounts for other classroom features and environmental factors. (35)

A second is the Educational Testing Service’s framework for whole-person assessment, which integrates noncognitive dimensions. (36) As some researchers have recently noted, documenting, sharing, and adapting the effective practices employed by schools and districts doing pioneering work in this area will also help improve how we define and, especially, measure these skills. (37)

Broadening the Curriculum

The identification of those noncognitive skills that play important roles in education should prompt a discussion of how to design broader curricula as well as specific instructional strategies to promote those skills. Some noncognitive skills can be taught both directly and indirectly, i.e., they may be learned through instruction but might also be acquired in the process of studying other specific academic subjects. (38)

The broader curriculum that we develop should thus include ways to both directly promote specific social and behavioral skills and to develop them indirectly, by leveraging other kinds of skills. (39) For example, having students work on group projects has been found to effectively nurture such skills as collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. (40)

Enhancing Teacher Preparation,Training, and Support

Fully integrating noncognitive skills into the curriculum also requires that teachers’ preparation and professional support are geared toward the development of these skills in their students and the nurturing of strong, understanding relationships with those students. Through the provision of pedagogic, leadership, and organizational skills training, this professional development could complement existing training designed to improve teachers’ effectiveness as instructors in cognitive areas by incorporating new components that focus explicitly on the child’s full development, and that provide teachers with awareness of the principles of child development, as well as the tools to apply them. (41)

Education policy thus must be enhanced to ensure that teachers are appropriately supported and trained, and that they receive instruction in both the subject matter and in learning how to teach it. For example, in their research on student-centered learning approaches, Diane Friedlaender and her colleagues list a number of supports for teachers, from higher-quality preparation and induction to increased time for planning and collaboration. (42)

One interesting example in practice is Construye-T, a Mexican program that provides secondary school teachers and principals nationwide with professional development that trains them to nurture students’ “integral development” and socioemotional skills. (43)

School leaders are also key to this. In Austin, one of the strongest of the eight districts that are the focus of a CASEL-led initiative to embed SEL in every aspect of school policy and practice, those assessing the impacts of SEL implementation found that the principal’s level of commitment to social and emotional learning as core to the school’s operations was a strong determinant of the degree to which SEL was fully implemented, and to which teachers received proper training and support.

Revisiting School Disciplinary Policies

Many current disciplinary measures used to combat student misbehavior are at odds with the goal of nurturing noncognitive skills. Harsh measures, in particular in-school and out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, referrals to law enforcement, and even arrests (often called, collectively, zero-tolerance policies), are increasingly used to punish low-level infractions. (44)

Such responses to uncooperative, disorderly, or disruptive behaviors not only are unlikely to prevent such behaviors in the future, but have been found to be harmful to students’ development. They also correlate negatively with school achievement and school climate, and positively with dropouts. (45)

Disciplinary measures should be rooted in schools’ ability to support and promote better behavior, and to prevent misbehavior, rather than simply in punishing wrongdoing. Indeed, evidence points to the increased efficacy of shifting from zero-tolerance to preventive and supportive policies—“restorative” approaches such as peer mediation, group responsibility, and counseling that support and promote safe learning environments. (46)

Broadening Assessment and Accountability

If individuals’ full development is the ultimate goal of education, assessments and accountability should be tools that reflect learning and development and inform teaching. In light of the critical importance of noncognitive skills, exploring some of the challenges associated with the assessment of cognitive skills provides an opportunity to improve current accountability systems by rethinking how we conceive of and use these systems, and by building comprehensive assessment and accountability systems that use both quantitative and qualitative information to improve teaching and learning and, ultimately, student performance.

Accountability practices and policies must be broadened to make explicit the expectation that schools and teachers contribute to the development of noncognitive skills and to make the development of the whole child central to the mission of education policy. Specifically, incentives promoted by an enhanced accountability system should be aligned with broadening the curriculum, cultivating the proper climate within the school, promoting teachers’ investment in strong relationships with their students, and ensuring teaching time for strategies that are conducive to the development of both noncognitive and cognitive skills.

Designing such a system requires ensuring that new policies avoid replicating the mistakes of current accountability systems focused on cognitive skills, which have turned out to be overly rigid and narrow. (47) As Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues emphasize in their recent report on developing a new accountability paradigm, given that actors in many areas of policy and at all levels of government affect children’s development, it is also critical that accountability be reciprocal: “Each level of the system – from federal and state governments to districts and schools – should be accountable for the contributions it must make to produce high-quality learning opportunities for each and every child.” (48)

Indeed, such a broader education policy agenda could reverse some of the dysfunctional aspects of current systems, leading to fairer and more realistic education policies generally.

Build on Growing Momentum to Advance Policies to Support Noncognitive Skills

Despite the low priority assigned to noncognitive skills in U.S. education policies generally, there is significant momentum growing at the local, state, and federal levels to change that. This energy is reflected in multiple examples that demonstrate the potential to implement and scale up practices to nurture noncognitive skills in the education system. And these examples can help guide and disseminate strategies that would more fully educate our children.

In exploring a few of these district-level initiatives, it is important to acknowledge the pioneering efforts that not only contributed to these efforts, but that have helped advance state and federal legislation geared toward supporting the development of noncognitive skills. Several national organizations in the United States, including ASCD and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), have long supported work to nurture noncognitive skills. More recently, organizations like the Learning Policy Institute and the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development have emerged to enhance that work.

Due in part to these efforts, a growing minority of school districts in the United States have already made noncognitive skills a goal and a core component of their education systems.
  • These districts that have taken a holistic or “whole-child” approach to education in structuring their schools, from preschool through high school, to support these traits.
  • These districts’ focus on a broader set of outcome goals and grounding in relationships with families and partnerships with many other institutions has laid a strong foundation for nurturing SEL.
  • These districts have embedded support for students’ physical and mental health care in school policies and strategies. Organized sports, music and arts, yoga, and mediation, which many scholars tie to the development of social and emotional skills, are built in as core parts of the school day and year. Teacher training includes support to build the development of noncognitive skills into daily classroom routines and to gauge the need for targeted support to enhance these skills’ growth.
  • These districts often assess schools’ progress based on a broader set of metrics, and they use the data gathered to target supports to students and improve practices.

Examples include the Children’s Aid Society in New York City, and Vancouver, Washington, both of which have been cultivating a full-service community schools strategy for a decade or more, and which have won national-level recognition for that work to make wrap-around supports for students and families and a focus on social and emotional learning core components of their education systems.

Another, City Connects in Boston, which does not identify primarily as a community schools district but collaborates with the Coalition for Community Schools, infuses art, music, and other physical, social, and behavioral health promotion into daily activities in order to make schools’ development of these skills central. (49)

Eight urban districts have been the focus of the aforementioned CASEL-led initiative to embed SEL in every aspect of school policy and practice. Austin USD, one of those districts, has become a pioneer in making SEL core to academic standards, curriculum, teacher training and support, and even metrics for assessing student progress, and has seen widespread benefits for students as a result. (50)

And dozens of communities across the South and Midwest that are working with the Bright Futures USA initiative seek to address a broad range of children’s needs and strengthen their skills—both traditional academic and other—by growing community leadership from the ground up and incorporating service learning into the curriculum.

Larger-scale, systemic efforts demonstrate both the promise and limitations of embedding SEL in school policy and practice. The California Office to Reform Education (CORE), a collaborative of nine of the state’s districts that received a waiver from requirements under No Child Left Behind to design new school accountability systems, has been making strides toward embedding SEL as a key component of their schools’ policies and practices. And research on CORE districts has found strong relationships between skills like perseverance, confidence, and ability to collaborate, as self-reported by students, and those students’ academic achievement. (51)

A second large-scale effort, by charter schools that are part of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) network, however, has shown less promising results: Of the character skills advanced, only student self-reported collaboration with other students improved in a rigorous 2015 study by Mathematica. (52) Both point, in particular, to the need to further explore how self-reported measures compare with others, and to examine potential biases or other problems with them.

A handful of pioneering states—Illinois, New York, and Ohio among them—have taken steps to embed noncognitive skills in schools through state-level legislative measures. (53) And the new federal legislation discussed above makes schools’ development of social and behavioral skills a national issue. Finally, countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, Finland, Mexico, and Japan have undertaken actions—ranging from pilot programs to large-scale efforts—to build a framework for students’ full development.

These examples, which are scattered but increasing in number, can serve as models not only of how noncognitive skills can be better nurtured in schools, but of ways to build systems and structures to develop them beyond schools. While most are too preliminary at this stage to surface best practices, exploration of their progress as they mature can, along with rigorous research, help identify those. (54)

These examples also remind us that education should be defined much more broadly than it often is; that public education has larger civic and societal ambitions beyond preparing children to succeed in college and careers, important as those goals are; and that our schools today are tasked with preparing children for a more complex world than ever before. In looking toward that future, we should seize this opportunity to ensure that noncognitive skills finally take their rightful place in education policy and practice.

This policy brief extensively builds on a more detailed and comprehensive research paper published by the Economic Policy Institute (see The Need to Incorporate Noncognitive Skills in the Education Policy Agenda). The excellent guidance provided by Jane Quinn in that paper is greatly appreciated in this version. The authors are also grateful to Brooke Stafford Brizard, Shirley Brandman, and Blanca Heredia for their helpful advice generally and specific pointers throughout. They also thank Michael McCarthy for his edits.

About the Authors

Emma García is an education economist at the Economic Policy Institute, where she specializes in the economics of education and education policy. Her areas of research include analysis of the production of education, returns to education, program evaluation, international comparative education, human development, and cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis in education. Prior to joining EPI, García conducted research for the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education and other research centers at Teachers College, Columbia University, and did consulting work for MDRC, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the National Institute for Early Education Research. García has a Ph.D. in Economics and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Elaine Weiss has served as the national coordinator for the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA) since 2011, in which capacity she works with four co-chairs, a high-level task force, and multiple coalition partners to promote a comprehensive, evidence-based set of policies to allow all children to thrive. Elaine came to BBA from the Pew Charitable Trusts, where she served as project manager for Pew’s Partnership for America’s Economic Success campaign. Ms. Weiss was previously a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s task force on child abuse, and served as volunteer counsel for clients at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. She holds a Ph.D. in public policy from The George Washington University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

References

1. Angela L. Duckworth and David Scott Yeager, “Measurement Matters: Assessing Personal Qualities Other Than Cognitive Ability for Educational Purposes,” Educational Researcher 44, no. 4 (2015), 237–251; Flavio Cunha and James J. Heckman, “The Technology of Skill Formation,” The American Economic Review 97, no. 2 (2007), 31–47; Emma García, What We Learn in School: Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills in the Educational Production Function, Columbia University, 2013.

2. Incheon Declaration for Education 2030, Education 2030: Towards Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Lifelong Learning for All, UNESCO, the World Bank, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women and UNHCR, 2016.

3. See Lex Borghans, Angela L. Duckworth, James J. Heckman, and Bas ter Weel, “The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits,” Journal of Human Resources 43, no. 4 (2008), 972–1059; Benjamin S. Bloom, Stability and Change in Human Characteristics (New York: Wiley, 1964).

4. J. A. Durlak, R. P. Weissberg, A. B. Dymnicki, R. D. Taylor, and K. B. Schellinger, “The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions,” Child Development 82, no. 1 (2011), 405–432.

5. Angela L. Duckworth, Patrick D. Quinn, and Eli Tsukayama, “What No Child Left Behind Leaves Behind: The Roles of IQ and Self-Control in Predicting Standardized Achievement Test Scores and Report Card Grades,” Journal of Educational Psychology 104, no. 2 (2012), 439–451; Angela L. Duckworth and Martin E. P. Seligman, “Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents,” Psychological Science 16, no. 12 (2005), 939–944. For work in the self-regulation field, particularly concerning self-regulation’s importance at earlier stages in children’s development, see, for example, Karen L. Bierman, Celene E. Domitrovich, Robert L. Nix, Scott D. Gest, Janet A. Welsh, Mark T. Greenberg, Clancy Blair, Keith E. Nelson, and Sukhdeep Gill, “Promoting Academic and Social‐Emotional School Readiness: The Head Start REDI Program,” Child Development 79, no. 6 (2008), 1802–1817; and Karen L. Bierman, Marcela M. Torres, Celene E. Domitrovich, Janet A. Welsh, and Scott D. Gest, “Behavioral and Cognitive Readiness for School: Cross‐Domain Associations for Children Attending Head Start,” Social Development 18, no. 2 (2009), 305–323.

6. D. E. Jones, M. Greenberg, and M. Crowley, “Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness,” American Journal of Public Health 105, no. 11 (2015), 2283–2290.

7. J. Casner-Lotto and L. Barrington, Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce, The Conference Board, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society for Human Resource Management, 2006. In contrast, the cognitive skills that are measured and by which the success of students, educators, schools, and even states are judged are far down on the list. In the same ranking, writing, mathematics, science, and history/geography were ranked 6th, 15th, 16th, and 19th, respectively, out of 20 skills.

8. D. E. Jones, M. Greenberg, and M. Crowley, “Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness,” American Journal of Public Health 105, no. 11 (2015), 2283–2290.

9. James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Sergio Urzua, and Gregory Veramendi, The Effects of Educational Choices on Labor Market, Health, and Social Outcomes, unpublished manuscript, University of Chicago Department of Economics, 2011.

10. W. Hofmann, M. Luhmann, R. R. Fisher, K. D. Vohs, and R. F. Baumeister, “Yes, But Are They Happy? Effects of Trait Self‐Control on Affective Well‐Being and Life Satisfaction,” Journal of Personality 82, no. 4 (2014), 265–277.

11. Flavio Cunha and James J. Heckman, “Formulating, Identifying and Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation,” Journal of Human Resources 43, no. 4 (2008), 738–782; Flavio Cunha, James J. Heckman, and S. M. Schennach, “Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation,” Econometrica 78, no. 3 (2010), 883–931.

12. Emma García, The Need to Address Noncognitive Skills in the Education Policy Agenda, Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper No. 386, 2014.

13. Center on the Developing Child, Core Concepts in the Science of Early Childhood Development: Healthy Development Builds a Strong Foundation – For Kids and For Society, 2015.

14. Emma García, Inequalities at the Starting Gate: Cognitive and Noncognitive Gaps Among the 2010-2011 Kindergarten Cohort, Economic Policy Institute report, 2015.

15. Emma García, Idalia Rodríguez, and Christopher C. Weiss, The Determinants of Noncognitive Skills in Mexico: How Do Families and Schools Matter?, CIDE, 2015.

16. L. H. Lippman, R. Ryberg, R. Carney, and K. A. Moore, Key “Soft Skills” that Foster Youth Workforce Success: Toward a Consensus Across Fields, Child Trends, FHI360, and USAID, 2015.

17. J. A. Durlak, C. E. Domitrovich, R. P. Weissberg, and T. P. Gullotta (eds.), Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice (New York: Guilford Publications, 2015).

18. See J. A. Durlak, C. E. Domitrovich, R. P. Weissberg, and T. P. Gullotta (eds.), Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice (New York: Guilford Publications, 2015); and websites of these institutions: CASEL.org, CollaborativeClassroom.org.

19. K. Brooke Stafford-Brizard, Building Blocks for Learning: A Framework for Comprehensive Student Development, Turnaround for Children, 2015.

20. H. M. Levin, “A New Model of School Effectiveness,” in Do Teachers Make a Difference?, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Office of Education, 55–78, 1970; Cunha, Flavio, James J. Heckman, L. Lochner, and D. V. Masterov, “Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation,” Handbook of the Economics of Education 1 (2006), 697–812; Flavio Cunha, James J. Heckman, and S. M. Schennach, “Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation,” Econometrica 78, no. 3 (2010), 883–931; S. Olson, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: An Update: Workshop Summary (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2012); Timothy P. Shriver, and Roger P. Weissberg, “No Emotion Left Behind,” New York Times, August 16, 2005; K. Brooke Stafford-Brizard, Building Blocks for Learning: A Framework for Comprehensive Student Development, Turnaround for Children, 2015.

21. Emma García, What We Learn in School: Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills in the Educational Production Function, Columbia University, 2013.

22. Emma García, The Need to Address Noncognitive Skills in the Education Policy Agenda, Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper No. 386, 2014.

23. For information on the new provisions in ESSA that support social and emotional learning, see Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Federal Legislation to Promote Social and Emotional Learning,” 2016. The text of the act can be viewed at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1177/text.

24. See Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (New York: Basic Books, 2011); Richard Rothstein, Rebecca Jacobsen, and Tamara Wilder, Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right (Economic Policy Institute and Teachers College Press, 2008); and Paul Tough, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (New York: Mariner Books, 2012).

25. Researchers increasingly focus on these factors in analyzing drivers of achievement gaps among white and male versus minority and female students, and thus urge policymakers and practitioners to see those students’ different perspectives on what goes on in class as a key step to narrowing the gaps. See David Yeager, Gregory Walton, and Geoffrey L. Cohen, Addressing Achievement Gaps with Psychological Interventions,” Kappan, February 2013.

26. Angela L. Duckworth and David Scott Yeager, “Measurement Matters: Assessing Personal Qualities Other Than Cognitive Ability for Educational Purposes,” Educational Researcher 44, no. 4 (2015), 237–251.

27. L. H. Lippman, R. Ryberg, R. Carney, and K. A. Moore, Key “Soft Skills” that Foster Youth Workforce Success: Toward a Consensus Across Fields, Child Trends, FHI360, and USAID, 2015.

28. Emma García and Elaine Weiss, Early Education Gaps by Social Class and Race Start U.S. Children Out on Unequal Footing: A Summary of the Major Findings in Inequalities at the Starting Gate, Economic Policy Institute report, 2015.

29. Harvard University professor Martin West, who evaluated the CORE districts’ research on the links between students’ reports of social and emotional skills and academic achievement, is sufficiently pleased with the results to support using them this way despite potential pitfalls, while psychology professors Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania and David Yaeger of the University of Texas strongly oppose this use. See John Fensterwald, Rating Schools by Students’ Social-Emotional Skills Worth Trying, Evaluator Says,” EdSource, March 17, 2016.

30. In a March 2016 article on the topic, Whitehurst warns that, while so-called soft skills are clearly far too valuable to be ignored, the paucity of solid knowledge regarding how they are defined, nurtured, and measured poses serious “danger signs” regarding the potential to rush headlong to implement untested curriculum and assessments. He urges incremental progress that builds on existing school policies and practices. See Grover J. Whitehurst, Hard Thinking on Soft Skills,” Evidence Speaks Reports, vol. 1, no. 14, Brookings Institution, March 24, 2016.

31. Emma García, The Need to Address Noncognitive Skills in the Education Policy Agenda, Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper No. 386, 2014.

32. It is not clear that all of these belong in the noncognitive camp; some might be skills that fall between cognitive and noncognitive extremes. Also, some skills may be more static or fixed, while some may be more adaptable and learnable, depending on each individual. Additionally, some degree of overlap can be detected among some of the skills included in the list.

33. James P. Comer, “Child and Adolescent Development: The Critical Missing Focus in School Reform,” Phi Delta Kappan 86, no. 10 (2005), 757–763.

34. It is also critical to ensure that schools are appropriately staffed with experts on mental and emotional health; i.e., teachers cannot and should not supplant the role of counselors or psychologists (or others). As set out above, education is not confined to what happens within school walls, nor can the nurturing of cognitive or noncognitive skills be the sole responsibility of teachers. It takes the whole school, family, and community to do so effectively.

35. Karen M. La Paro, and Robert C. Pianta, CLASS: Classroom Assessment Scoring System (Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 2003); Karen M. La Paro, Robert C. Pianta, and Megan Stuhlman, “The Classroom Assessment Scoring System: Findings from the Prekindergarten Year,” The Elementary School Journal 104, no. 5 (2004), 409–426. The CLASS system has grown from a child development tool that assesses interactions between early childhood teachers and students and offers resources to strengthen them into a K-12 tool that is designed to capture teacher behaviors linked to student gains. As such, states looking for valid metrics under the new ESSA requirement may find CLASS useful. http://curry.virginia.edu/about/directory/robert-c.-pianta/measures

36. Patrick C. Kyllonen, “The Case for Noncognitive Assessments,” R&D Connections, 2005.

37. For example, see BBA’s case studies of communities focused on social and emotional learning at http://www.boldapproach.org/case-studies/.

38. See Richard E. Nisbett, Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009); C. A. Kusche and M. T. Greenberg, The PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) Curriculum (South Deerfield, Mass.: Channing-Bete, 1994).

39. S. Olson, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: An Update: Workshop Summary (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2012).

40. Diane Friedlaender, Dion Burns, Heather Lewis-Charp, Channa Mae Cook-Harvey, and Linda Darling-Hammond, Student-Centered Schools: Closing the Opportunity Gap, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, 2014.

41. James P. Comer, “Child and Adolescent Development: The Critical Missing Focus in School Reform,” Phi Delta Kappan 86, no. 10 (2005), 757–763.

42. Diane Friedlaender, Dion Burns, Heather Lewis-Charp, Channa Mae Cook-Harvey, and Linda Darling-Hammond, Student-Centered Schools: Closing the Opportunity Gap, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, 2014.

43. Skills targeted by the program include self-regulation, interpersonal relationships, or perseverance.

44. Pedro Noguera, “Texas-Style Discipline Puts Suspension First,” Huffington Post, August 5, 2011. These practices and policies vary widely from state to state and, within states, across districts. As such, the first step is to examine current policies and to determine how changes to state and district laws factor in. For example, only 3 percent of the disciplinary actions for students in middle and high schools in Texas were for conduct for which state law mandates suspensions and expulsions, and the remainder of disciplinary actions were made at the discretion of school officials (primarily in response to violations of local schools’ conduct codes). See Antonio Fabelo, Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement, Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2011.

45. Edmund Emmer, Edward Sabornie, Carolyn M. Evertson, and Carol S. Weinstein, Handbook of Classroom Management: Research, Practice, and Contemporary Issues (London: Routledge, 2013).

46. Christopher Boccanfuso and Megan Kuhfeld, Multiple Responses, Promising Results: Evidence-Based, Nonpunitive Alternatives to Zero Tolerance, Child Trends, 2011; Russell Skiba, “Zero Tolerance and Alternative Discipline Strategies,” National Association of School Psychologists Communique 39, no. 1 (2010); Russell Skiba and K. Knesting, “Zero Tolerance, Zero Evidence: An Analysis of School Disciplinary Practice,” New Directions for Youth Development 92 (2002), 17–43.

47. Diane Ravitch, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (New York: Random House, 2013).

48. Linda Darling-Hammond, Gene Wilhoit, and Linda Pittenger, “Accountability for College and Career Readiness: Developing a New Paradigm,” Education Policy Analysis Archives 22, no. 86 (2014), 1.

49. Case studies of these three districts can be found athttp://www.boldapproach.org/case-studies/.

50. The Austin Independent School District has been conducting rigorous evaluations of the impacts of intensive SEL focus on a broad set of outcomes. The most recent report on these findings, by Lindsey M. Lamb, is from the 2013–2014 school year.

51. M. R. West, E. Scherer, and A. Dow, Measuring Social-Emotional Skills at Scale: Evidence from California’s CORE Districts, paper presented at the American Education Finance and Policy Annual Conference, 2016.

52. Grover J. Whitehurst, Hard Thinking on Soft Skills,” Evidence Speaks Reports, vol. 1, no. 14, Brookings Institution, March 24, 2016, p. 5.

53. See standards at the K–12 level in other states, and some examples corresponding to federal, and international initiatives, in chapters 35–37 of J. A. Durlak, C. E. Domitrovich, R. P. Weissberg, and T. P. Gullotta (eds.), Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice (New York: Guilford Publications, 2015).

54. In addition to looking at these varied examples of how schools and education systems can better integrate SEL into their policies and practices, we can learn from other education arenas. In particular, the early childhood education field has much to offer in terms of structures and systems. Its inherent whole-child perspective, and foundational understanding that multiple domains of child development grow in closely intertwined ways, offer lessons across the range of policy areas for those shaping K–12 policies and practices.