(Washington, DC, Tuesday, January 29, 2019) – A new report being released by the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development asserts that our nation is at a turning point. We now understand that social, emotional, and cognitive development underpin children’s academic learning. This breakthrough understanding about how people learn is fueling a growing movement to educate children as whole people, with social and emotional as well as academic needs.

The report, “From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope,” emphasizes that translating this knowledge about how people learn into practice and helping students develop skills like collaboration, empathy, and perseverance requires systemic change.

It offers specific actions to fundamentally shift how we teach children, with the understanding that the social, emotional, and cognitive dimensions of learning are mutually reinforcing rather than distinct. The report also shows that supporting students’ social, emotional, and academic development has a positive impact on attendance, test scores, success in college and careers, and overall well-being. It also improves students’ feelings about school and makes schools safer.

Drawing on input from more than 200 scientists, youth and parent groups, educators and policymakers, the report offers the following six broad recommendations:

  • 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 school-wide practices.
  • Build adult expertise in child development.
  • Align resources and leverage partners in the community to address the whole child.
  • Forge closer connections between research and practice to generate useful, actionable information for educators.

These recommendations are especially pertinent now, as states and communities leverage their increased authority on education policy under the Every Student Succeeds Act. With increased local control, parents, teachers, and school leaders are well positioned to create the conditions for schools and local communities to educate the whole child. Nearly 100 organizations have signed on in support of the report’s conclusions and recommendations, such as the National Education Association, National PTA, the National Urban League, the National Governors Association, and others, which are committed to advancing this work.

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