Tim Ryan Brings SEL Bill Back to Congress

By Jill Suttie | May 7, 2013 | 0 comments

Today, Congressman Tim Ryan re-introduces his bill to support the growth of social-emotional learning in schools.

Kids go to school to learn how to read, write, think, and reason. But that’s not enough in school and in life, according to many education experts. Students must also know how to understand and manage their emotions and to get along well with others, if they hope to thrive in the rapidly changing world of the 21st century.

Or, at least, that’s what Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) believes.

Congressman Tim Ryan Congressman Tim Ryan Auey Santos

On May 8, Ryan re-introduced legislation to encourage social-emotional learning (SEL) in classrooms all over the country. The legislation is called the Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act, and it amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). If passed, this legislation would allow funding for teacher and principal training to go toward social-emotional development, and encourage more classroom and school-wide programs in SEL.

The bill was first introduced by Ryan and others in 2011 as HR 2437. Now Congressman Ryan, along with Congressional co-sponsors Dave Loebsack, Tom Petri and Matt Cartwright, hopes that there is more support for it.

Congressman Ryan, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, has become a champion of social-emotional learning and, in particular, the practice of mindfulness—one of several techniques used in schools to help kids gain social and emotional literacy. Training in mindfulness—or the ability to pay attention to present thoughts, emotions, and experience without judgment—has been shown to help kids feel less stressed, get along better with teachers and peers, and pay more attention in class. After meeting with researchers around the country who study mindfulness, Ryan published a book in 2012 called A Mindful Nation to help promote wider acceptance of the practice.

Research on the benefits of SEL is hard to ignore. In a 2011 meta-analysis of over 200 studies, scientists found that children who went through SEL programs in their schools had higher levels of social and emotional competency, expressed more positive attitudes toward themselves and others, and engaged in more pro-social—helpful and kind—behaviors than children who didn’t have SEL programs. In addition, problem behaviors, like aggression and truancy, went down in the kids receiving SEL, while academic performance went up significantly—by 11 percentage points—a finding that surprised even the researchers. 

Some may feel that SEL is a luxury, only to be taught if the “basics” are covered. But research has shown that kids who suffer from high stress—whether rich or poor—can have trouble concentrating at school or may act out in aggressive or self-harmful ways. SEL programs help kids regulate their emotions, reduce stress, and negotiate interpersonal conflicts, all of which create safer, more harmonious learning environments for everyone.

Not all SEL programs are created equally—some have been rigorously evaluated and have been shown to produce better results than others. Many of these evidence-based programs are listed on the website of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning—or CASEL, an organization devoted to developing, researching, and promoting evidence-based practices in education. 

School districts around the country are beginning to implement SEL programs and many state education boards have incorporated SEL requirements into their standard education requirements. But many school districts either can’t afford the training or have yet to understand the implications of the research. If Ryan’s bill passes, it would help ensure that more schools have access to these kinds of programs, benefitting students who might not otherwise receive SEL training.

Last year, the Greater Good Science Center hosted a talk by Tim Ryan at the University of California, Berkeley. Here is the video of that talk.

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure

About The Author

Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good’s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine.


Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017
Clark Kerr Campus, UC-Berkeley
Sunday, June 25 - Friday, June 30, 2017 OR Sunday, July 16 - Friday, July 21, 2017

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017

The GGSC’s six-day Summer Institute equips education professionals with prosocial learning strategies, tools and processes that benefit both students and teachers.


Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

Roots of Empathy By Mary Gordon Mary Gordon explains how best to nurture empathy and social emotional literacy in all children—and thereby reduce aggression, antisocial behavior, and bullying.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement