SEL in Massachusetts Regulation
Policies that affect social and emotional learning can play a critical role in establishing SEL as an essential element of education. For example, several states have adopted SEL learning standards, which set an expectation and benchmarks for teaching SEL. A few states require teacher preparation programs to address SEL or require demonstration of SEL competencies for teacher certification.
In January, 2015, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education published their new Guidelines for Professional Standards for Teachers. Two new indicators were placed in the Standards which reflect on SEL:
2 (e): Social and Emotional Learning Indicator: Employs a variety of strategies to assist students to develop social emotional- competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
2 (f): Classroom Management Indicator: Employs a variety of classroom management strategies, and establishes and maintains effective routines and procedures that promote positive student behavior.
SEL in Massachusetts Legislation
Massachusetts has enacted policy in recent years that begin to define social and emotional learning and encourage its use.
On May 3, 2010, Massachusetts enacted An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools, which required the department of elementary and secondary education to publish and biennially update guidelines for the implementation of social and emotional learning curricula in kindergarten to grade 12 (see Section 16) and defined social and emotional learning as “the processes by which children acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions and constructively handle challenging social situations.”.
On August 13, 2014, provisions of An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools were enacted into law as part of the legislature’s omnibus Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence. Social and emotional learning featured prominently in the act, which defined safe and supportive schools as those that “…foster a safe, positive, healthy and inclusive whole-school learning environment that (i) enable students to develop positive relationships with adults and peers, regulate their emotions and behavior, achieve academic and non-academic success in school and maintain physical and psychological health and well-being and (ii) integrate services and align initiatives that promote students’ behavioral health, including social and emotional learning, bullying prevention, trauma sensitivity, dropout prevention, truancy reduction, children’s mental health, foster care and homeless youth education, inclusion of students with disabilities, positive behavioral approaches that reduce suspensions and expulsions and other similar initiatives.” For more information, visit Safe and Supportive Schools of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative’s (TLPI).
It is important to note that the bill referred to above is not a mandate and each individual school district must vote to implement a “safe and supportive school.”
For more information about SEL in policy, visit the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).