Giving Compass' Take:

•  Meria Carstarphen, writing for The 74,  discusses the impact of implementing a whole-child approach to social-emotional learning in Atlanta schools.

• Can other school districts replicate Atlanta's efforts? How can they facilitate funding for social-emotional learning support? 

• Read about how social-emotional learning can help address student needs. 


When I joined Atlanta Public Schools in 2014, my team and I set out to make these types of realistic, powerful improvements in the district. We began with a mission to provide a caring, collaborative, and trusting culture that enables every student to graduate ready for college or careers. To do this, we knew we had to support not only our students’ academic success but also each young person’s well-being.

This approach was backed by a multitude of research showing that students learn best when we teach them as whole people, with social and emotional as well as academic needs.

A new report from the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (which I’m pleased to be a part of) shows that an array of skills and traits — perseverance, empathy, respect, self-mastery, creativity, collaboration — lay the groundwork for academic excellence and success in life. Research also tells us that this type of learning is especially beneficial to vulnerable children. In short, this approach is exactly what APS needed.

However, as we know from new year’s resolutions, shifting practices and mindsets in this way requires systemic change and a lot of hard work — and adopting a whole-child approach in schools is no different. That’s why we started by ensuring our board understood our approach and would allocate resources to support it.

At the same time, we brought the research to school and district leadership and shared our vision. We also prioritized transparent communication with staff throughout the district about integrating social, emotional, and academic learning for our students.

We created a Social and Emotional Learning Department to oversee training for teachers, school resource officers, counselors, and others to gain the skills and strategies to support students on social and emotional levels.

Read the full article about supporting the whole child by Meria Carstarphen at The 74