The Era of Measuring Social Emotional Needs in Real-Time
Updated: Mar 25
This blog is sponsored by our partner MyLife for Schools. MyLife for Schools is a new web-based mindfulness tool that works in the classroom, in distance learning and in a hybrid educational model. Middle and High School student's check-in regularly with how they’re feeling, and MyLife recommends short mindfulness activities tuned to their emotions. Teachers and administrators have the ability to see both classroom and school dashboards that compile and anonymized student's emotional data. To learn more visit here.
Addressing SEL Needs Deriving from Isolation
As schools reach almost a full year of closures, the concerns around student well-being are at the front of mind for every administrator, educator and parent. The concerns are especially high for adolescents. In a survey and study conducted by the University of Calgary that surveyed over 2,000 students, results showed that “students reported moderate and equal concern for their health, family confinement, and maintaining social contact. Student stress levels were also above critical thresholds for 25 percent of the sample, and females and older adolescents (age 15-18 years) generally reported higher stress indicators as compared to males and younger (age 12-14 years) adolescents. Multivariate analysis showed that stress indicators were positively and significantly correlated with self-reported behavioural concerns (i.e., conduct problems, negative affect, and cognitive/inattention), and that stress arousal (e.g., sleep problems, hypervigilance) accounted for significant variance in behavioural concerns.”
Along with higher stress indicators and behavioural concerns, there is growing concern about the correlation of COVID-19 and youth suicide rates. According to NPR, “NPR spoke with providers at hospitals in seven states across the country, and all of them reported a similar trend: More suicidal children are coming to their hospitals — in worse mental states.” Data for 2020 on suicide rates are not yet available.
There is a clear, pressing need, especially for middle and high school students. There is a disconnect from elementary to middle school. It is, of course, important to ensure that elementary students have access to the tools, but there is an urgent need to provide adolescents with access to tools to identify how and why they feel the way they do.
The statistics uncover the dire need for strategies to address students' social and emotional health. These targeted tools must be available and ready to implement with urgency. There are no longer just individual student mental health challenges, but entire schools will need to address the climate daily, and in real-time.
Measuring School Climate in Real Time to Take Action
Upon the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, districts are allowed to use school climate as an indicator for the purposes of federal accountability. The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments has a comprehensive list of surveys to help identify school climate. These are helpful tools, but they are not in real-time. It is imperative to have a tool that allows educators to check in daily and evaluate the climate in which they are teaching.
Educators must have access to an easy to read dashboard that allows them to better understand, ideally first thing in the morning, where students are mentally. Once an educator has a pulse on the room, a real time social emotional tool can identify helpful exercises to help the student move to a better mental place that can get them ready to learn academically.
In fact, initial data reported from using MyLife for Schools shows that taking under ten minutes to focus first thing in the morning helps improve how students feel. The survey participants are reporting:
79% Are more likely to make healthy decisions
69% Are better able to manage stress
62% Are better able to concentrate
Increased Social-Emotional Learning Funds
Not only are these data points important for accountability, but Congress is also putting an increased emphasis on student well-being. In the latest round of funding, allowable uses were broadened to include addressing learning loss and safely bringing students back into the classroom. In addition, the Biden administration signed an executive order requiring the United States Department of Education Secretary to, “provide advice to State, local, Tribal, and territorial educational authorities, institutions of higher education, local education agencies, and elementary and secondary schools regarding distance and online learning, blended learning, and in-person learning; and the promotion of mental health, social-emotional well-being, and communication with parents and families.”
This signals that the administration is taking social-emotional well-being seriously, and the administration is expected to back this executive order with funding through the proposed $1.9 trillion dollar America Rescue Plan.
Why SEL Tools Need to Take Priority
Students are going through more, socially and emotionally, than any other aggregate group in modern history. The data being reported on how students are coping with COVID-19 is showing there needs to be an emphasis on social and emotional learning - in the classroom or at home.
Managing stress, making healthy decisions, and having better concentration is where the focus must be as students return to learn. Providing tools for students to improve their overall well being and social emotional learning skills must be the first step a district takes to ensure that academic success is not only for a few, but for all.