Social-Emotional Learning

Since 2014-15, the CORE districts have surveyed students in grades 3-12 on their social-emotional learning (SEL). School and district leaders use these measures in the context of CORE’s multiple measures data system to understand and improve student and school outcomes. Because SEL measurement at scale is so new nationally, studying the properties of these measures and their use is a central focus of the research coordinated by the CORE-PACE Research Partnership. Our work thus far has aimed to answer the following questions:

How do the CORE districts survey students on social-emotional learning, and what is the evidence for validity and reliability of the measures?

As educational practitioners and policy-makers expand the range of student outcomes they assess, student perception surveys—particularly those targeting social-emotional learning—have grown in popularity. Despite excitement around the potential for measuring a wider array of important student outcomes, concerns about the validity of the inferences that might be drawn from student self-reports persist. To address this concern, in this report, Measuring Social Emotional Learning through Student Surveys in the CORE Districts: A Pragmatic Approach to Validity and Reliability, the authors summarize the evidence for validity and reliability of CORE’s student-report surveys on social-emotional learning, and provide guidance for educational leaders as they weigh decisions regarding the use of student surveys as a component of their assessment programs.

What is social emotional learning and how do CORE districts and schools work to advance it?

Social-emotional learning refers to the beliefs, attitudes, personality traits, and behaviors that students need to succeed in school and life. This report, Enacting Social-Emotional Learning: Practices and Supports Employed in CORE Districts and Schools, looks closely at ten “outlier schools” in California’s CORE districts whose students report strong social-emotional learning outcomes compared to other, similar middle schools. The brief and infographic—based on a longer technical report—describe the surprising breadth and variety of social-emotional learning practices found in these outlier schools, as well as commonalities in their approaches and implementation challenges that some are facing. Our findings offer ideas and lessons learned that may benefit other schools and districts seeking to implement social-emotional learning at scale.

How do students develop social-emotional skills, and what are trends over time and across student group in SEL reports?

Because SEL measurement at scale is so new, there is a lack of research examining how social-emotional skills develop over time, particularly for different student subgroups. To address this gap, in this working paper, Trends in Students’ Social-Emotional Learning, the authors examine how social-emotional skills develop from grades 4 to 12, and how these patterns vary by gender, economic disadvantage, and race/ethnicity. Better understanding how students’ social-emotional skills develop, including how specific competencies shift with age and vary across subgroups, should help educators, policy makers, and researchers to interpret patterns they observe in their students and discern how best to support them.

How do schools impact students’ social-emotional development?

There is growing agreement that schools can and do affect the development of students’ social-emotional skills. While measures of school-level growth are common tools used to assess the impacts of schools on academic outcomes, school growth measures using measures of students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) have not been possible until now. A series of new publications use the CORE SEL data to produce and evaluate school-level value-added measures by grade for growth mindset, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness. The authors find substantive differences across schools in SEL growth, of magnitudes similar to those for academic achievement. However, they also find that the estimates vary substantially from one year to the next, raising concerns about the practical value of creating school-level estimates from self-reported SEL measures and using them to evaluate school performance.

What is the relationship between school culture-climate and SEL, and how can these measures be used together to improve student and school outcomes?

This report, Using Surveys of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and School Climate (CC) for Accountability and Continuous Improvement, and accompanying policy brief show that there is good reason to pursue the measurement of SEL and CC as a way to better understand student and school performance. CORE’s SEL and CC measures demonstrate reliability and validity, distinguish between schools, are related to other academic and non-academic measures, and also illuminate dimensions of student achievement that go beyond traditional academic and non-academic indicators. This report also shows how the SEL and CC measures can be used to identify areas of improvement within schools, such as identifying subgroup gaps or conflicts in CC reports from different respondent groups.

What are the measurement properties of CORE’s SEL surveys?

In this working paper, Measuring Students’ Social-Emotional Learning Among California’s CORE Districts: An IRT Modeling Approach, the authors examine the measurement properties of California's CORE Districts’ SEL survey through conducting analyses through both classical test theory and item response theory frameworks, summarizing the psychometric properties of items at each grade level, comparing items' functionality across grades, and comparing student outcomes using different modeling approaches. The authors make suggestions on approaches to modeling and scaling the SEL survey data.

How and why did the CORE districts choose to measure social-emotional learning as part of their school performance measurement system?

This case study, Expanding the Definition of Student Success, by CORE partner Transforming Education provides an in-depth discussion of how social-emotional competencies—a key component of the CORE Districts’ holistic data system—were prioritized and assessed. A related article, Development and implementation of student social-emotional surveys in the CORE Districts, documents CORE’s early implementation of the SEL surveys.

Can other states, districts and schools use CORE’s SEL survey to better understand student and school performance?

A growing number of districts and states are considering using SEL measures to better understand student success and to define school quality more holistically. For example, in California, school-level SEL scores could be reported under state Priority 6 of the LCFF, given their close relationship to school climate measures. Nationwide, states could measure and report SEL as a “school quality or student success” indicator. CORE’s instrument is available online for anyone to use, and recent work provides concrete information to help educators make use of the data, including a report with benchmarks from the CORE districts and a report on target setting within schools.


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