Social and Emotional Learning: Opportunities for Massachusetts, Lessons for the Nation

October 2015

In today’s ever-changing global economy, preparing students for life after graduation must extend beyond academics. This report looks at ways Massachusetts school districts can help students cultivate social and emotional skills like grit, persistence, empathy and good decision-making.

Studies show that the development of these non-cognitive skills, collectively known as social and emotional learning (SEL), is tied to better academic performance, higher college retention rates, increased employment rates and wages, and better overall health and well-being, including a lower risk of substance abuse, obesity, and criminal activity. However, evidence suggests that students are not building enough of the SEL skills they need to succeed.

The Rennie Center’s report, Social and Emotional Learning: Opportunities for Massachusetts, Lessons for the Nation, finds that while Massachusetts has several SEL-relevant programs and policies, more work is needed to align efforts, create a common focus, and provide all districts with support to further their work in this area. 

The research looks at how SEL policy, practice, and measurements are being effectively implemented in states and districts across the nation, including in three Massachusetts school districts—Fall River, Gardner, and Reading.

Using lessons learned from these districts, the report offers a blueprint for all Massachusetts school districts on ways to foster social and emotional development. This blueprint offers suggestions on how to prioritize, operationalize, and integrate SEL in school districts.

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