On Saturday February 1, a team from ACT attended the NSBA Equity Symposium in Washington, D.C., and addressed an audience of school district board members, counselors, and educators from across the country. This NSBA Equity Symposium provided an exceptional forum for sharing research data, information on the Mawi Learning curriculum, which provides integrated English Language Learner (ELL) supports, and promoting the idea of leveraging social and emotional learning (SEL) to increase equity for students. The title of our session, “SEL and Equity: Follow the Data,” was presented by ACT team members Dr. Dana Murano, research scientist I, Center for Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning; Dr. Nancy Lewin, program director, ACT’s Center for Equity and Learning, and Anthony Giudice, account executive, SEL Solutions.
We first presented general research evidence on SEL, including research on the utility of SEL in preparing students for success in K-12 education, higher education, and the workforce, and results from a cost-benefit study, showing a high return on investment following SEL implementation. We then shared results from ACT’s longitudinal research with Region One, a network of schools in Texas serving primarily low-income, Hispanic learners. Throughout a long-term partnership with ACT, Region One has continually leveraged SEL assessment and intervention in order to improve outcomes for underserved learners. The crux of the presentation centered on quantifying academic gains and growth with data, specifically as it pertains to incorporating an SEL curriculum within the ELL community. We also shared information on the Mawi Learning Powered by ACT curriculum, which implements a strengths-based perspective on ELL social and emotional skills development. Modules within the curriculum reinforced and propagated the data that Drs. Murano and Lewin were providing, thus making Mawi curriculum a viable choice for anyone seeking to achieve these types of gains within their ELL community. By sharing our research with Region One and the lens through which the Mawi curriculum was developed, we hope that other K-12 education systems across the country can begin their own initiatives to leverage SEL to promote equity in their schools and districts.
The ever-changing patterns of diverse demographics and poverty are challenges that many school-systems face. Underserved populations continue to face challenges, and a way to close the gap and promote equity is to integrate SEL assessment and curriculum in order to promote SEL growth. Embedding equity through a committed investment in SEL for self-development can help students build 21st Century workforce skills. Additionally, this approach embraces personalized instruction, gives learners supports they need, and increases access to opportunity. School systems who truly look at equity as a priority must embed equity through including SEL into their strategic plans.
The session had wonderful turnout and the Q & A time was very engaging. Audience members were asking very specific, relevant questions and asking for presentation slides as well as contact information. In all, it was a very positive experience that benefitted all who attended and elevated the ACT brand.