The NCSL Blog


By Ashley Wallace

There’s a growing recognition that in addition to academic skills, children and youth also need the social and emotional skills necessary to have success in school, work and life.

Over tMichael Gerson, Washington Post columnist (moderator); Indiana Representative Robert Behning (R), chair, House Committee on Education; former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, current president of Purdue University; Arkansas Senator Joyce Elliott (D) and former Delaware Governor Jack Markell,  Governor.he past two years, the Aspen Institute's National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development gathered a diverse group of thought leaders to re-envision what well-rounded student success looks like.

NCSL participated as a member of the commission’s partner collaborative. Drawing from research and promising practices, the commission explored challenges and opportunities around how to effectively make social, emotional and academic development part of the fabric of a child’s learning in formal school settings, as well as in informal settings, such as afterschool programs.

The report, From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hopeprovides a roadmap for practitioners, policymakers and communities interested in pursuing this whole learner approach.

Two state legislators participated in the policymaker panel at the release event for the report, which outlines ways to leverage and connect with community partners, such as afterschool providers.

“To me, one of the reasons this report is so important is what it says about the whole community being a part of it, not just the schools,” said Senator Joyce Elliott (D-Ark.). Representative Robert Behning (R-Ind.) discussed how social, emotional and academic learning is connected with other policy issues. “We’re looking at how to use social and emotional learning to help with school safety,” he said.

The report makes the following topline recommendations:

  • Align resources and leverage partners in the community to address the whole child.
  • Set a clear vision that broadens the definition of student success to prioritize the whole child.
  • Transform learning settings so they are safe and supportive for all young people.
  • Change instruction to teach students social, emotional and cognitive skills; embed these skills in academics and schoolwide practices.
  • Build adult expertise in child development.
  • Forge closer connections between research and practice by shifting the paradigm for how research gets done.

This is a just a sampling of the recommendations in the full Nation at Hope report. The commission also released an executive summary, policy agenda, research agenda and practice agenda.

For more information on this topic, please see NCSL’s webpage on social and emotional learning.

Ashley Wallace is a program director in NCSL’s Education Program.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.