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A Resolution for the New Year: Advance My School’s SEL Journey

As we celebrate the beginning of 2019, many of us have started down the path of our own New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you have set a personal goal or decided to pursue a professional aspiration.

If you are passionate about advancing education, perhaps you will be joining many teachers, principals and school leaders who want to help students with social and emotional development. In fact, that may be on the top of your list and it’s a new year’s resolution worth keeping.

Recently, I was invited to meet with the assistant principal at an Arizona public high school to discuss new initiatives to better support their students.

Within moments of my arrival, the school’s principal popped into the office to thank me for coming and to say, in essence, that student social and emotional development and support was probably the most important challenge facing the school.

As the next hour passed, my conversation with the two school leaders touched on an array of topics such as homework, letter grades, tests and exams, 9th to 10th-grade persistence, student depression and anxiety, school counseling programs, underrepresented student graduation rates, college persistence, and much more.

I regretted, later, not diagramming a “mind map” graphic on the assistant principal’s whiteboard. As our conversation unfolded, we could have then tracked the way each one of these topics and challenges were, in their eyes, influenced by the school but not (yet) addressing student social and emotional skill development.

Rightfully, they acknowledged the importance of starting small with social and emotional learning, and then building up their programming in this area. There’s no sense, as they say, in biting off more than they can chew. The school needs time for teachers—and in different ways, parents and students—to adapt to the new curriculum and materials.

The school chose to emphasize greater social and emotional learning with next year’s incoming 9th graders—well before the new school year begins!

Most of the new students will enroll in a summer “boost” program for orientation and student skill training. That’s when school leaders intend for several hundred of these teenagers to also receive targeted social and emotional skill development, beginning with an administration of the ACT® Tessera® social and emotional learning (SEL) assessment. This approach will help them achieve two goals:

  1. It will provide teachers, counselors, parents and students with insights into each student’s strengths and areas of opportunity for improvement, enabling them to set goals and manage their growth. 
  2.  It will provide the school a baseline data set that can be used to compare future administrations of the Tessera assessment system in the coming school year. 
This way, school leaders can determine how well their initiatives are working, and which areas need more attention going forward. In addition, the school plans to use the ACT Tessera Social and Emotional Learning curriculum that is bundled with the assessment in a comprehensive online platform.

All this is intended as a sort of pilot at the school level, a place to start and test-drive a new approach to student success.

While Arizona school leaders believe they can fund this initial “small starting point,” that might not be true for every school. As many of us well know, it can be hard to win budget allocations or grants for a pilot or untested program. Then, once a program proves itself, it is easier to secure financial support.

A New Year’s Resolution for Your School?


If you are intrigued by what this school is planning for its students, but unsure whether funding is available for you to purchase ACT Tessera to conduct a pilot of your own, there’s good news.

ACT is introducing a new “SEL Journey Program” for schools, districts, or other educational organizations to acquire a license to administer Tessera and employ its resources to conduct a trial-run of enhanced social and emotional learning at the middle or high school level, for up to 500 students for FREE.

The SEL Journey Program will allow your school or organization to:

  • Familiarize your community with this kind of assessment and instruction. 
  • Build a solid baseline of data. 
  • Provide valuable instruction and support inside and outside the classroom. 
  • Thoroughly test-drive the Tessera system to demonstrate SEL results for securing budget. 
By participating in this program, you will help your school leverage ACT’s resources to advance and improve social and emotional learning.

The application form is short and easy to complete. Check it out today, and, like the Arizona school, take action to begin or advance your school’s SEL journey in collaboration with ACT.

It’s a great resolution to keep in the New Year.


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About ACT

ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa, ACT is trusted as a leader in college and career readiness, providing high-quality assessments grounded in nearly 60 years of research. ACT offers a uniquely integrated set of solutions designed to provide personalized insights that help individuals succeed from elementary school through career.

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