Close your eyes and imagine you’re back in middle school. You’re hard at work cranking out a five paragraph essay. It’s a tough assignment: take a stand on school uniforms. You have to back your position up with evidence. This is your third and final draft, which means you’re either writing it in pen or typing it up. You’re a bit late turning it in, but when you finally think your paper is good enough, you hand it over. Your teacher smiles and says, “Thanks for turning this in! Of course, I’m going to take five points off because it’s a day late.”

Why? And more importantly, from where?

Situations like these bothered me as a student because I was a geek and petty about points. In the scenario above, I could’ve presented an argument for school uniforms in a powerful, convincing paper. Yet, the value of my writingwas devalued when I turned this paper in late. “X points off for [insert behavior here]” is very random and unjustified. If a world-famous chef is opens her restaurant two weeks late, does that mean her restaurant earns one less Michelin star than it could’ve? No. The world outside of the classroom doesn’t work like that.

I’m guessing a long time ago, a teacher wanted students to learn that meeting deadlines was important. They may have assumed students cared about their grades and may have thought, well why not tie the two together? Today, we have the luxury to take a step back, reflect on this process, and adjust accordingly if there’s a better way. And there is: if we want students to demonstrate “good” behaviors, we can grade those behaviors, without erroneously devaluing their academic skills. This has to do with social emotional learning.

Ideologically, American educators are slowly but surely adopting a standards-based grading (SBG) mindset. This is a big win for students, because SBG requires teachers to isolate and track specific skills. The logical next step is to integrate social emotional learning (SEL) standards into the academic curriculum. Yes, this might push some educators outside of their comfort zones, but if we’re going to teach our students to be lifelong learners, we must also be lifelong learners. And in the end, blending academics in with SEL is what’s best for students: educators will accurately be able to inform their students areas of strength and development, both academically and personally, with actual data to back it up.

What might this look like?



Let’s say I’m an English teacher and I’ve assigned my students a persuasive essay. I’ve provided my students with a rubric, which communicates my academic expectations. I may then incorporate some social emotional learning competencies into the samerubric. For example, if I want students to manage themselves (i.e. complete the assignment, submit it on time, etc.), I might add a self-management row to the rubric, communicating my expectations for the task at hand. Now I can express academic strengths and weaknesses, as well as character strengths and weaknesses.

Meg, I took X points off from self-management because you turned this paper in two days late. Content wise, this was powerful. You made a convincing argument, well done.

If I’m a Social Studies teacher grading a class debate (e.g. Communism vs. Capitalism), I might include a social awareness standard in the debate’s rubric to communicate what it means to model “appropriate behavior” for this specific task.

Jack, your arguments were supported with facts and examples. Clearly, you were well-prepared. I took off some points in social awareness due to your inappropriate outburst near the end. See me after class if you’d like to discuss.

Social Emotional Learning at Kiddom

At Kiddom, we’ve incorporated CASEL’s social emotional learning competencies into our standards database and we’re making a big deal about it. We want to ensure our teachers and schools have the tools they need to develop the whole child, and not just on academics.

To learn more about how we’re tying academics and social emotional learning, click here.



By: Abbas Manjee
Chief Academic Officer at Kiddom