Ryan Sees Mahoning Valley SEL Programs as Model

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, Ohio, says if programs devoted to improving the social and emotional learning skills of children are having an impact on students in the Mahoning Valley, why not make similar programs available to the rest of the country?

“This is happening in our own backyard,” Ryan told reporters on a conference call Wednesday to discuss the Academic, Social and Emotional Learning Act, legislation that would enable such programs to become eligible for federal funding. “If we can do it in our schools, then this can be done anywhere.”

Ryan and Democrats U.S. Reps. Dave Loebsack of Iowa, Susan Davis of California, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and John Yarmuth of Kentucky co-sponsored the bill, which was introduced Tuesday (READ STORY).
“This approach is the approach for 21st century schools,” Ryan says. “This is happening in a big way in the Mahoning Valley and Ohio. It’s a little bit of a different approach, but it’s the approach the teachers want, the parents want.”

Ryan was successful in implementing social and emotional learning (SEL) pilot programs in Warren and Youngstown city schools, and continues to advocate for additional support for these efforts.

The congressman cited a meta-analysis of 213 SEL programs with a combined sample of 270,000 students that showed SEL programs have proven effective in a number of areas critical to the success of students. Students scored 11 percentile points higher on standardized achievement tests, a significant improvement when compared to peers not receiving SEL education, he says.

Ryan also noted that the Center for Disease Control has recommended that schools incorporate a component of social and emotional learning for students.

A similar bill was introduced two years ago, Ryan says, and while it passed the House, it failed to receive enough support for consideration in the U.S. Senate. The legislation doesn’t call for additional money, but would rather enable funding to be drawn from available funds earmarked for education, he says.

Ryan and other supporters of social and emotional learning believe the bill has broader bipartisan support this time around and stands a better chance of passing, even with a Republican-dominated Congress.

“I think this kind of legislation can be mistakenly categorized as a Democratic or progressive idea,” says Tim Shriver, board chairman of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, or CASEL. Shriver, who joined Ryan on the conference call, says initiatives that advance emotional, cognitive and social education are attractive to both parties.

“This bill begins the process of opening up a new chapter in American education,” Shriver says, noting the objective is to take a holistic approach to educating children through social, emotional and cognitive learning.

Ryan points out neuroscience research has determined that the human brain can’t fully access its working memory and executive function in a period of undue stress, affecting decision-making and the ability to properly focus. “That part of the brain does not function at peak levels when you are in some kind of trauma or high state of anxiety,” he says. These programs help connect the student to the teacher, the school and to other students, while teaching them how to de-escalate from difficult emotional situations.

“It crosses partisan lines,” Ryan says. “I don’t think anyone is interested in throwing more money at any institution or program that isn’t dealing with the root issue.”

Pictured: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Tim Shriver, board chairman of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. Shriver joined Ryan on a conference call Wednesday to promote the congressman’s newly introduced legislation, the Academic, Social and Emotional Learning Act.

Ryan Seeks Congressional Support for SEL Programs

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