Jun 15, 2022

New Topical Brief Illustrates Social Emotional Learning Needs and Strategies for Overcoming Pandemic Challenges in Region 5

John White
Shauna Harps
Cover of resource

Near the end of 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General described the tremendous impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children and adolescents, often exacerbating the mental health challenges they experienced prior to the pandemic’s onset.

This blog introduces the second topical brief in a series developed by the Region 5 Comprehensive Center (R5CC). The latest topical brief highlights the needs and strategies used to strengthen social and emotional learning (SEL) in the region. (The first topical brief illustrated education technology needs and state strategies for strengthening remote learning.)

To mitigate the pandemic's impacts on learning, state education agency (SEA) leaders outlined, in plans submitted to the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) for approval, detailed information about how local education agencies would use American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funding to support students, families, and educators. The Department approved of all State plans and allocated ARP ESSER funds by the end of 2021. 

R5CC has been supporting SEAs in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia as they identified educational needs and used federal funds to develop solutions to the challenges schools face. The SEL topical brief highlights some of the strategies state education leaders use (or plan to use) to address statewide SEL needs.

While states identified different overall priorities, they all described the need to address how students have been socially and emotionally affected by the pandemic. The focus in Kentucky is on supporting the needs of student subgroups and the need to identify and examine SEL variables. In Virginia, state leaders identified the need to increase staff to address SEL deficits in schools. 

State education agencies described a range of strategies to address the schools’ needs, which are highlighted in the brief and include:

  • Kentucky’s SEL workgroup, a summer learning plan that includes guidance for addressing students’ SEL needs, and professional learning tools to support students, counselors, and school leaders.
  • Tennessee’s emotional support video series and a free and confidential Emotional Support Line for Pandemic Stress for educators to discuss feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness, or depression
  • Virginia’s guidance on SEL implementation and trauma-informed teaching, efforts to increase the number of school-based mental health providers, professional development for educators to address SEL and mental health challenges, wraparound services for homeless students, and other mental health supports for school staff and families.
  • West Virginia's Summer SOLE (Student Opportunities for Learning and Engagement) program, which provides students with opportunities to participate in summer activities that support both their educational and SEL needs, and efforts to bolster mental health provider support in schools. 

R5CC is currently supporting projects in two states that are engaged in efforts to address students’ SEL needs—Kentucky and West Virginia. The topical brief concludes with examples of how R5CC is supporting projects in these states. For example, R5CC collaborated with the Kentucky Department of Education’s SEL Workgroup in the development and deployment of an SEL survey, results from which will be used to prioritize areas for additional investment in SEL supports. R5CC also collaborated with the West Virginia Department of Education to identify ways to address mental health provider shortages, resulting in the development of a related infographic and blog.

Upcoming briefs in the series will describe other needs and the strategies states have used to address high-priority state needs in Region 5. Contact R5CC for more information and resources.