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Sen. Litzow and Rep. Senn Back Bipartisan Bill for WA Social-Emotional Learning Standards

OLYMPIA, Wash., Jan. 28, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A bipartisan bill recommending statewide standards for social-emotional learning (SEL) was introduced to the WA State Legislature today. HB 1760/SB 5688, An Act Relating to Providing Students with Skills that Promote Mental Health and Well-Being and Increase Academic Performance, is sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island) and Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island). The bill defines SEL, establishes a work group to study and provide advice to schools about SEL, and develops SEL benchmarks for K-12 students.

"Educating students is an evolving science, and the evidence is clear that we must prepare the whole child as they move through school toward the work force," said Sen. Litzow, chairman of the Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education Committee. "By addressing the social and emotional needs of students in addition to traditional classroom instruction, we can ensure they are better prepared to fully participate in democracy."

"Unfortunately, too many students experience stresses like homelessness and bullying to depression and playground conflict," says Rep. Senn. "In order for children to be ready to learn, they need to have not only academic skills, but also social and emotional ones. Solid mental health is a critical building block for life."

The bill comes on the heels of a survey released this week by Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates, which shows K–12 teachers in Washington State overwhelmingly support SEL as part of their curricula. "The Missing Piece: A Survey of Washington State Teachers on Social and Emotional Learning" is co-authored by John Bridgeland and Jennifer DePaoli of Civic Enterprises.

The survey was conducted in September 2014 with 402 pre-k through grade 12 teachers across the state. Among other surprising statistics, the survey found that 98% of WA elementary school teachers and 97% of WA middle school teachers believe teaching SEL should be a priority, and that WA teachers in both high- (80%) and low-income (81%) schools believe teaching SEL can increase academic scores. Research shows that high quality SEL does boost academic performance.

"Teachers in the State of Washington are clearly telling us that social-emotional skills, such as empathy, emotion management, and problem-solving, are key to both helping kids thrive in school and helping them achieve academically," says Bridgeland, President and CEO of Civic Enterprises.

About Committee for Children

Committee for Children is a 35-year-old nonprofit that develops award-winning, research-based educational tools to promote social-emotional learning and prevent bullying and sexual abuse. To learn more, go to www.cfchildren.org.

CONTACT: Allison Wedell Schumacher 206-438-6432 (o) 206-778-2537 (c) aschumacher@cfchildren.org

Source: Committee for Children