May 10, 2019

Why Ohio Should Reject “Social Emotional Learning” Standards

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This article written by Dr. Karen Effrem for The National Pulse details Ohio’s new plan to implement social-emotional standards into its state education system.

A committee of the Ohio State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on advancing a proposal to the full state board to implement statewide social emotional learning (SEL) standards this coming Tuesday, May 14th. This is part of a national movement to psychologize education, falsely advertised as improving academic achievement and preventing violence and suicide.

The problems with this approach are myriad. They include the following points (with more information available from the Pioneer Institute, as well as this list of concerns for Ohio and numerous writings in this space, such as here):

SEL would further erode the fundamental right of parents to control the education and upbringing of their children due to unjustified expansion of the schools beyond their basic mission of academics.

Some SEL assessments and lessons promote highly controversial topics that, regardless of one’s view of them, ought to be up to parents to decide how to discuss and present to their children.

Even proponents of SEL have admitted there is a lack of consensus in defining it and multiple flaws in the research, with mixed or negative evidence of academic improvement.

The teaching and assessing of SEL by untrained or minimally trained, already overburdened school personnel, as well as the linking of SEL to violence and suicide prevention via mental-health screening, can lead to many problems such as biased or inaccurate assessment based on subjective criteria, improper referrals, diagnosis and over-treatment with potentially harmful medications.

Experts have admitted and research has shown that over-medication has occurred in the most vulnerable populations, including foster children and minorities.

There are strong linkages between SEL and Common Core, as well as between SEL and competency-based education/personalized learning that further dilute the promised rigor of Common Core and nudge/force children into career paths not of their choosing.

Competency-based education and the education technology on which it is based, like SEL and Common Core, has little to no evidence of improved academic achievement and severely damages student-teacher interaction.

If SEL is about meeting the individual needs of the “whole child” and the Department of Education claims this will be implemented according to the individual needs of the school districts, why is there a need for statewide SEL standards?

If there is no reliable way to assess SEL standards, as admitted by experts such as “Grit Guru” Dr. Angela Duckworth, and the Aspen National Commission on SEL strongly recommends against assessing students and teachers on these subjective standards, then why have them?

If SEL’s definition, assessments, and research are all questionable, and experts admit no evidence of cost effectiveness, should Ohio be spending its state’s share of what national proponent groups have estimated to be $30 billion on SEL in this time of tight education budgets, teacher shortages, infrastructure issues, etc.?

The state superintendent’s budget testimony mentioned $4.2 million in federal grants related to SEL, school climate and mental health. That means Ohio will have to follow the dictates of the federal government to use these funds for SEL and will not have the flexibility to use them as state officials see fit. This is similar to issues of state sovereignty that arose with No Child Left Behind’s testing mandates and Race to the Top that required the adoption of Common Core.

If you are an Ohio resident and wish to make your voice heard on this critical topic, please consider a personalized note using arguments from this list or the other resources cited above in your email. Addresses may be found here. As we celebrate mothers and families this weekend, let us always be vigilant to guard parental rights and the hearts and minds of our children.

The full article can be read on The National Pulse’s website.

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