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New K-12 Survey: Social and Emotional Learning Gains Awareness and Prioritization Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

New Survey by McGraw Hill Demonstrates Importance of SEL in Preparing Students for the Future

Tags: Social Emotional Learning, Press Release, PreK-12

NEW YORK (September 27, 2021) – Most educators were generally familiar with Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) before the COVID-19 pandemic – but now, virtually all educators are familiar and report that their schools are implementing wider SEL plans, according to the 2021 Social and Emotional Learning Report, a new survey conducted by McGraw Hill. Building upon data collected from a 2018 survey, the latest report found educator awareness of SEL has increased from 83 percent to 94 percent, and teachers are far more knowledgeable about their school’s and district’s plans for teaching SEL skills today (91 percent) than they were in 2018 (77 percent). More than half of educators say that their school has at least begun implementing an SEL plan and administrators report that their institutions are using standalone SEL programs (34 percent) far more than they did in 2018 (16 percent).

Parental knowledge and advocacy of SEL has also grown, with 87 percent believing it is important in helping their children navigate today’s world. Parents recognize that SEL can help their children be more successful in the future, and report that they feel SEL is just as important as academic subjects. Parents also believe that SEL is not emphasized as much as it should be (81 percent), that it has become even more important since the beginning of the pandemic (82 percent), and that it is helpful for children learning online (80 percent).

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For the 2021 report, McGraw Hill surveyed educators (teachers), administrators and parents to better understand their opinions about the importance of Social and Emotional Learning, the effects of COVID-19 on children’s wellbeing, and on how schools can support kids as they return for the 2021-22 school year. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, SEL is defined as the process through which young people and adults acquire and apply knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

COVID-19 and SEL

Overall, the pandemic has clearly underscored the importance of SEL. A majority of educators said COVID-19 and/or the shift to remote learning has caused their students emotional distress and created problems with attendance. Administrators and teachers cite that an increased number of students have "given up" on school and show signs of depression, loneliness and anxiety. Teachers also find that student confidence has plummeted, and it is easier for them to disengage from learning. As such, over 84 percent of educators believe that SEL has become more important since the pandemic.

Throughout the last year and a half, many students have dealt with family losses and are fearful of COVID-19 and social interactions. This has prompted three-quarters of educators to anticipate additional SEL needs for the move back to classrooms. Over 95 percent of educators believe that SEL will help provide benefits such as reduced behavioral problems, improved grades and less emotional distress.

"The research is clear: Social and Emotional Learning is a critical component to student success and wellbeing generally, and especially now as we navigate between online and in-person experiences," said Sean Ryan, President of McGraw Hill’s School group. "Across the board, parents, teachers and administrators recognize the significant impact SEL has on academic achievement and student motivation, and we are committed to providing SEL resources that support everyone connected to the classroom."

McGraw Hill
McGraw Hill is a leading global education company that partners with millions of educators, learners and professionals around the world. Recognizing their diverse needs, we build trusted content, flexible tools and powerful digital platforms to help them achieve success on their own terms. Through our commitment to equity, accessibility and inclusion, we foster a culture of belonging that respects and reflects the diversity of the communities, learners and educators we serve. McGraw Hill has over 30 offices across North America, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South America, and makes its learning solutions for PreK-12, higher education, professionals and others available in more than 80 languages. Visit us at or find us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

Tyler Reed
McGraw Hill
(914) 512-4853