Fostering School Success with Standards for Nonacademic Skills

Fostering School Success with Standards for Nonacademic Skills

This LatestCounsel was written by Danielle Ewen, Senior Policy Advisor and LeighAnn Smith, Policy Assistant.

Sitting in a circle.
Sitting at a desk.
Putting toys away.
Putting lab equipment away.
Bringing something for show and tell.
Handing homework in on time.
Stacking blocks.
Taking turns.
Working together on an experiment.
Designing and building robotics.

cap.280What do all of these things have in common? Each of these tasks shows how skills that children must learn in early childhood build to academic skills for success in school and beyond.  In early childhood classrooms, the social and emotional or non-academic skills that these tasks require are routinely incorporated into the curriculum and daily schedule and are embodied in early learning standards that define what children should know and be able to do at each stage of their early development.

But as children move into k-12 classrooms, standards focus much less on these core skills and dispositions that are critical for success in school and life.  Social and emotional skills are rarely incorporated into classroom expectations, and teachers receive little support or professional development to help their students develop these skill sets.  In Fostering School Success with Standards for Nonacademic Skills, we examined current efforts by states to incorporate skills such as sharing, self-control, and building relationships with peers and adults into the standards set for children in elementary, middle and high school. While few states have made major efforts in this area, Illinois and Washington lead the way with different approaches to incorporate social and emotional skills in their learning standards. Other states have farther to go to successfully highlight and support this area of children’s development, alongside their academic learning.

When created and implemented together, this combined approach to academic and nonacademic standards promotes integration across early learning and K-12 systems; informs best teaching and learning practices for the full range of knowledge and skills required for school readiness; and most importantly helps more students succeed. In order for state standards to truly reflect what children should know and be able to do and support more student success, state education agencies should begin to include social and emotional standards into the expectations for their students.

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