Downers Grove Teachers Visit Washington D.C. to Promote Social, Emotional Learning

El Sierra sixth-grade teachers Patricia Incrocci and Lindsay Shea traveled to Capitol Hill last month to support the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

Two Downers Grove teachers traveled to Washington, D.C. last month to address lawmakers, educational advocates and national news outlets about the benefits of social and emotional learning.

El Sierra sixth-grade teachers Patricia Incrocci and Lindsay Shea were selected by the Chicago-based Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to speak at a Capitol Hill briefing Sept. 20.

The briefing coincided with the release of the 2013 CASEL Guide: Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs (Preschool and Elementary School Edition). The Guide is the first comprehensive, national review of SEL programs since 2003, according to CASEL.

Both teachers said they were honored to speak on behalf of CASEL, and relished the opportunity to share their personal experiences with policymakers.

"Everyone was really receptive," Shea said. "I think that was the best part for me, the fact that people in Washington were willing to listen to us share what's working in our classrooms in Downers Grove."

SEL helps children develop the skills to handle themselves, their relationships and their work. In 2011, a major research report from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Loyola University Chicago found that students who participate in SEL programs show again of 11 percentile points in academic achievement. 

CASEL invited Incrocci and Shea after experts at the nonprofit visited El Sierra School and witnessed the use of Responsive Classroom, a program that helps schools support social-emotional development in children. 

Last month, researchers funded by the U.S. Department of Education released preliminary results of a three-year, $2.9 million study on Responsive Classroom, finding that the use of its techniques leads to achievement gains in mathematics and reading. 

Congresswoman Judy Biggert (IL-13)—author of the Academic, Social and Emotional Learning Act of 2011—also spoke at the briefing. Other speakers included U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, co-sponsor of the legislation; CASEL and Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver; and CASEL President and CEO Roger Weissberg, who is also a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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