Education

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Ryan Seeks Congressional Support for SEL Programs

February 11, 2015

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, Ohio, is spearheading legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would support teacher training in social and emotional learning, or SEL, a discipline used to help young people deal with stress and boost their academic potential.

Ryan was joined Tuesday by fellow Democrats U.S. Reps. Dave Loebsack of Iowa, Susan Davis of California, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and John Yarmuth of Kentucky in introducing the Academic, Social and Emotional Learning Act. The legislation defines social and emotional learning and amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to allow funding for teacher and principal training and professional development to be used for SEL programming.

“I have seen firsthand what teaching social and emotional learning can do for students and their classrooms in Ohio and across the nation,” Ryan said in a statement released by his office. “These programs are scientifically proven to help students increase skills in problem-solving, conflict resolution, responsible decision-making and relationship building. These are the skills that will build the foundation for students to better perform academically and throughout their lives. Now is the time to promote programs that create a safer and more secure school culture in America.”
The congressman has introduced social and emotional learning programs in local school districts. In 2009, Ryan secured a $982,000 earmark for the Skills for Life program, which incorporated SEL into curricula in inner city schools such as Williamson Elementary in Youngstown and Jefferson Elementary School in Warren (READ STORY).

Ryan is the author of A Mindful Nation, a book published in 2012 that explains the benefits mindfulness and meditation has on human behavior and health (READ STORY). Meditative practice, the congressman advocates, has helped veterans cope with trauma, accelerated the learning capability of students, helped athletes achieve their full potential, and has improved the quality of life for Americans in all walks of life. Social and emotional learning programs incorporate the basic tenets of mindfulness.

Most recently, Ryan secured a $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund research geared toward exploring whether lifestyle modification can help individuals lower blood pressure, reducing the need for medication.

The congressman has received national attention for his continuing support for the practice. In December, the CBS news program 60 Minutes chronicled the congressman’s efforts to educate the country and his colleagues in Congress about the benefits of mindfulness. Each week, Ryan hosts a “Quite Caucus,” an event where legislators and staff members can gather to meditate.

An analysis of 213 SEL programs with a combined sample of 270,000 students showed that SEL programs have proven effective in a number of areas critical to the success of students, Ryan’s office said. Students scored 11 percentile points higher on standardized achievement tests, a significant improvement when compared to peers not receiving SEL education.

The Academic, Social and Emotional Learning Act builds on this report and a large body of research proving that social and emotional programming has a positive impact on student learning.

“If there’s one thing that unites Republicans and Democrats, it’s the belief that America is about both mind and heart — that our great national commitment to citizenship and character are as important as our commitment to competition and growth,” said Tim Shriver, chairman of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, or CASEL. “For too long, schools have been told to separate the head from the heart–to separate the social and emotional development of children from their cognitive learning. We know that’s the wrong way to teach and the wrong way to learn. This bill will help our schools get it right by using the best evidence based programs to optimize our children’s chances of learning how to be as smart and as good as they can be.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, students who feel more connected to school are more likely to have positive health and education outcomes and that a close relationship between the emotional welfare and health of the student can create a safer and more secure environment for learning. The CDC recommends that schools “provide students with the academic, emotional, and social skills necessary to be actively engaged in school,” Ryan’s office said.

“Decades of research show that well-implemented social and emotional learning programming improves students’ behavior and academic performance,” added Roger Weissberg, vice chairman of CASEL. “Recent national polls indicate that educators and parents believe that SEL should be an educational priority. It is critical to provide quality professional development for administrators and teachers so they provide the most beneficial programming for students.”

SOURCE: Office of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

Pictured: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and students at Williamson Elementary School in Youngstown, where he secured funding to implement social and emotional learning programs.

Copyright 2015 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.