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News From The Field

More Social-Emotional Learning in Schools, Please, Poll Says

21 August 2013
BY Ross Brenneman
PUBLISHED IN Education Week
There’s a new poll out today that shows Americans, by and large, have not heard of or don’t understand Common Core State Standards.

In the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup annual national survey, 62 percent of respondents hadn’t heard of the common core. (They must not be EdWeek readers.) But the survey also includes some snippets of information on school climate.

First, the poll of 1,001 respondents shows that Americans overwhelmingly reject the notion of arming teachers and principals. By almost a 2-to-1 margin, parents of schoolchildren strongly rejected such security measures, compared to those strongly for them:

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 Parental opinions fell somewhat evenly across the spectrum with regard to armed security guards, leaning slightly away from the idea. Yet despite a prominent disdain of adding guns to schools, respondents, parents included, overwhelmingly favored adding screening procedures like those used in government buildings (metal detectors, usually), for those wishing to enter the school.

Second, there was huge support for the idea that schools should address social-emotional skills. Over 50 percent of respondents displayed strong agreement with the following statements:

  1. Today’s schools should teach critical-thinking skills.
  2. Today’s schools should teach communication skills.
  3. Today’s schools should teach students how to set meaningful goals.
  4. Today’s schools should know how to motivate students.*
  5. Today’s schools should teach students how to collaborate on projects.
  6. Today’s schools should foster students’ creativity.
  7. Today’s schools should promote students’ well-being.
  8. Today’s schools should build students’ character.

Only 3 percent or less of respondents expressed any disagreement with those statements, except for the last one, which drew 8 percent overall disagreement.

That’s great for social-emotional learning advocates, but, to put the cold, hard grip of realism on these statistics, don’t expect too much to come from this survey. In a poll put out by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) in May, teachers also expressed substantial support for improving students’ social and emotional skills. But they also said training lagged in that area, that schools didn’t prioritize it, and that many schools only use a broad approach. High school teachers expressed the most dismay about SEL emphasis.

Clearly, though, communities, teachers, and parents want more of it.

*The folks behind the PDK/Gallup survey surely know that you can’t motivate people; you can only create a motivating environment.

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