The Sacramento Bee ran a front-page story today headlined Grit and gratitude join reading, writing and arithmetic on report cards.

Fortunately, it primarily discussed a district neighboring ours — Mai Xi Lee, our District’s director of Social Emotional Learning has too good of an understanding of SEL to buy into that kind of report card.

I wrote a Washington Post column explaining why grading SEL qualities is a terrible practice (see Why schools should not grade character traits).

There are many reasons for it being awful, and one big one is because it — as all rewards-based efforts to — backfires. A recent study found that students in KIPP schools that use their character report card demonstrated worse behaviors in SEL skills than those in a school without those kinds of assessments.

These kinds of practices done in the name of Social Emotional Learning is why I wrote another Washington Post column headlined The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning.

I’m adding this post to The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources.


I should point out that I suspect the reason that some want to grade SEL is because they want schools/teachers/students to place a high value on it. However, as I’ve written elsewhere, there are many ways to achieve that goal without the use of grades.

In addition, here’s a comment from Mai Xi Lee, the director of SEL for our district, about the article:

The fluidity of SEL skills make it challenging to assess. The article is very subjective and compliance-centric, and undermines the whole point of intrinsic motivation and just plain good practice.