The Secret to Higher Academic Achievement

by Faye Rogaski on September 8, 2011

Pssst..I have a secret. How would you like to boost your child’s academic performance this year that won’t require expensive tutors or militant measures. Instead it’s teaching basic social and emotional learning (SEL).

Not convinced? A recently released study published in the Journal of Child Development found what we at socialsklz:-) see everyday- SEL programs cause children to be interactive and to react and process emotion through role-playing and other social themes, better than through traditional academic study.

The report found that:
“…teaching kids social and emotional skills leads to an average 11 percentile-point gain in their academic performance over six months compared to students who didn’t receive the same instruction.”

And it’s never too late to start teaching SEL—the report went on:

“…SEL programs are successful at all educational levels (elementary, middle, and high school) and in urban, suburban, and rural schools… Results from this review add to a growing body of research indicating that SEL programming enhances students’ connection to school, classroom behavior, and academic achievement.”

Tara Parker-Pope recently penned a feature in the New York Times, “ School Curriculum Falls Short on Bigger Picture,” which explains that many child development experts worry that “the ever-growing emphasis on academic performance and test scores means many children aren’t developing life skills like self-control, motivation, focus and resilience, which are far better predictors of long-term success than high grades. And it may be distorting their and their parents’ values.”

As an adjunct professor in the department of media, culture and communication at NYU I saw a dire need for lessons in basic social interaction and communication skills amongst my students. It compelled me to develop a class that I titled “The Brand Called You.” As I taught the class, I quickly saw that these lessons should be taught sooner than the college level. Simple modifications to that class led me to NYC public schools where I volunteered the program and teachers and instructors saw how interested kids were in these lessons and the impact they had. This passion ultimately turned into a business.

I have always stressed the importance of having a third-party–like a teacher or a program such as socialsklz:-)–teach life skills to kids. I have found that taking the parental “corrective” factor out of the teaching of these skills allows for kids to first and foremost learn the skills (they are difficult to simply acquire in our world today with fewer and fewer role models) and then practice them in a fun environment initially with peers and no judgments.

Although it may seem there’s no time to add yet another program to an already-full after-school curriculum, the reality—demonstrated repeatedly in studies—is that properly implemented SEL programs do improve life skills such as self-control, decision-making, communication, confidence and problem-solving skills.

So this Fall, as your children head back to school, consider adding a life skills program or working with your child on these skills in a fun, proactive environment taking away the “corrective” factor.

About the Contributor: Faye Rogaski, founder of socialsklz:-) tools to thrive in the modern world, is a regular contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog in the area of modern day social skills for children, tweens and teens.

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