The NCSL Blog


By Autumn Rivera

As summer was coming to an end there were lots of questions about how reopening schools in the fall was going to work.

kids boarding a school busParticularly, many focused on how social and emotional learning would be approached moving forward. As departments of education, various organizations, researchers and other stakeholders have released guidance, NCSL examined a variety of documents and identified five emerging themes and paired them with legislative examples.

Using these resources, NCSL created the Addressing Social and Emotional Needs During COVID-19: Emerging Themes in School Reopening Guides brief.

Below are the themes in the guidance documents that NCSL identified, alongside a few state examples from the brief:

  • Strengthen Conditions for Learning
    • American Institutes for Research (AIR) says schools with essential conditions for learning maintain environments that are physically and emotionally safe, supportive, challenging, and socially and emotionally nurturing. One state example of this is the Indiana Department of Education’s creation of a road map for fall reentry that outlines social, emotional learning for the end of school, summer sessions and the start of the 2020-21 school year.
  • Identify and Address the Stress, Trauma, and Social and Emotional Needs of Students
    • Students have been impacted in many ways by COVID-19, so identifying and addressing the stress, trauma, and social and emotional needs of students is crucial in the recovery process. One-way schools are addressing student needs is by creating physically and emotionally safe, supportive, and engaging school climates for learning. Connecticut has approached this issue through  HB 7215, which created the Social and Emotional Learning and School Climate Advisory Collaborative.
  • Identify and Address the Stress, Trauma, and Social and Emotional Needs of Adults in the School
    • Before the pandemic, Colorado SB 272 (2018), created a grant program to assist schools in providing professional development to teachers, administrators, and staff around crisis and suicide prevention.
  • Build Partnerships with Afterschool Programs and Other Community-Based Organizations
    • The guidance documents stressed the importance of building partnerships with afterschool programs and other community-based organizations. An afterschool network’s purpose is to increase access to out-of-school time programs, foster partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders, and sustain high-quality opportunities for children and youth in its state. The 50-State Afterschool Networks can be a resource to help education organizations and state policymakers identify afterschool partners across the country.
  • Empower the Youth Voice
    • Empowering youth to use their voices can further their SEL development. Programs that amplify the youth voice, such as Mikva Challenge Programs, have resulted in growth in five key SEL competency areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

In many of the documents, experts emphasized that pandemic recovery would take time, however, focusing on these themes would aid in the recovery process. Additionally, a key takeaway from this pandemic is how rapidly the information is changing about the virus. This includes recommendations for recovery. Since our brief was written, there have been new guidance documents that NCSL would like to mention.

One example of updated recommendations is the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) Reunite, Renew and Thrive: SEL Roadmap for Reopening School. CASEL has collaborated with more than 40 organizations to develop a roadmap to support the planning for the transition back to schools, in whatever form that may take. This roadmap includes four SEL Critical Practices followed by 3-5 activities and additional resources. CASEL recognizes that while their guidance is targeted at schools, both states and districts will play critical roles in ensuring schools can reopen and succeed in supporting communities.

For additional resources on SEL see NCSL’s Social and Emotional Learning webpage.

Autumn Rivera is a research analyst with NCSL’s Education Program.

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Posted in: Education, COVID-19
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About the NCSL Blog

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.