Why Prioritizing Social Emotional Learning is More Critical Than Ever

New data reveals that the pandemic has heightened students’ need for help with transitions.

As COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to public health, schools in the U.S. continue to adapt. Though there is little consistency across the 50 states in distance versus in-person learning models, all districts share a universal goal: To keep staff and students safe.

By weaving transition skills and other tenets of social emotional learning (SEL) into every curriculum, educators can help students feel better equipped to continue navigating the disruptions in this school year, as well as the decisions they’ll face in the months to come.

For students who are at home instead of at school, this assistance is difficult to provide, yet more important than ever.

Assessing the High School and Postsecondary Impact

In high schools, though educators are striving to help students of all backgrounds and abilities finish out the school year, cracks are emerging.

An estimated three million students nationwide have stopped attending school. And a survey taken during the spring of 2020 showed that many high schoolers were rethinking their college choice because of COVID-19. The same survey found that 12.6% of students were considering deferring their college attendance for a year in order to be closer to home, to not miss out on tuition money, and to stay healthy.

College enrollment has seen a 2.5% decrease across the country, and many colleges are reporting that, because of the pandemic, there has been a tenfold increase in students who are extending their gap semesters into full gap years. But the biggest concern many college presidents reported in 2020 centered on the impact COVID-19 and virtual learning will have on underrepresented students.

Naviance as Your Social Emotional Learning Partner

Naviance offers several capabilities that help identify students who have the greatest need for social emotional support, at the times when they need it most. Features such as Insights and Insights Premium and Student Readiness Report make it possible to track student performance toward key goals, to customize and share data related to student progress and success, and to measure the impact your SEL programs are having. 

A recent study from Washington state underscores why SEL is so important. In the early 2000s, the Everett Public School system near Seattle had an on-time graduation rate of just 58 percent.

In response and in partnership with Naviance, the district began to shift its learning model to one that incorporated SEL. On-time graduation rates began to rise. “When a foundation for social and emotional skills is established early on, students transform into effective adults,” said Becky Ballbach, Director of Student Support Services. Today the on-time graduation rate is 96 percent — a 65 percent increase since creating a more holistic approach to education that includes SEL.

Naviance helps districts like Everett Public Schools by providing the social emotional lessons most relevant to a student’s needs through a curriculum that aligns with each of CASEL’s 5 SEL Pillars: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making. 

Our platform also recognizes the value of real-world experience, and the opportunity it provides students to hone their SEL skills. Our work-based learning tool gives students and educators access to a comprehensive database of local internships, externships, job shadows, and more, and allows them to search and take action on those that most appeal to their strengths and interests.

Time to Double Down on Transition Skills

The negative effect of COVID-19 on education cannot be understated. Counselors, teachers, administrators, and community-based organizations must work to incorporate SEL and instill transition skills — even in virtual settings — so that students don’t fall farther behind. For more on how to support your students in a shifting learning environment, read our blog post, Connecting Social Emotional Learning with CCLR During COVID-19 and our updated white paper, Five Ways to Ease Transitions for Students During COVID-19.


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