Social & Emotional Learning: A Preferred “Other Indicator” for ESSA

Schools across the country are ramping up for The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a new federal mandate that goes into effect this fall. ESSA will replace No Child Left Behind, a federal law passed in 2002 to help bridge the academic achievement gap in our nation’s public school system. In addition to measuring academic achievement, ESSA will also require schools to address at least one non-academic “other indicator” beyond traditional measures such as state exam scores or graduation rates. This other indicator must be a student measure to ensure that data can be separated into various sub-groups.

Recently, The Education Week Research Center surveyed 634 teachers on which other indicators they felt would work best in their schools. Social and emotional learning (SEL) received the greatest support—23 percent of the teachers indicated this measure as their preferred choice. Other high-ranking factors include student engagement (19%), college and career readiness (15%), and student mindset (11%).

Educators clearly understand the importance of assessing the social and emotional skills of their students, due in part to the growing national recognition of the importance of these competencies. Increasingly, schools are putting systems in place to teach these skills. With quality SEL assessments, schools can measure students’ social and emotional competencies, utilize the data to guide SEL instruction, and demonstrate that educators and leadership are effectively implementing an SEL framework in their schools, districts, and states. In this way, quality SEL assessments can contribute to school accountability systems.

A handful of SEL assessments, including Aperture Education’s DESSA, have sufficient reliability and validity to effectively measure students’ social and emotional competencies. The DESSA in particular is an effective formative measure that can be used to guide instruction within a Response to Intervention (RtI) framework. The full assessment can be administered at the beginning of the school year, and quick mini-probes can be administered throughout the year to determine if students are showing measurable growth. Educators can document progress as students attain these SEL skills and modify their instructional strategies if students are not making the expected gains.

Students’ social and emotional skills can be impacted by many factors in and out of the classroom, which makes it difficult to hold educators solely responsible for teaching these skills. Yet effective SEL instruction is essential to students’ success, and quality SEL assessments such as the DESSA can be used to ensure schools are developing and supporting the social and emotional skills of all students.

Contact our SEL experts by filling out the form below to learn more about the DESSA, a standardized, strength-based measure of social and emotional competencies for grades K-8. Grounded in resilience theory, the DESSA helps educators measure the social and emotional skills related to school and life success.

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