Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum in Tennessee

In the aftermath of recent school shootings, both the state and federal governments have turned their attention to policies designed to promote safety in our schools. Some of the most generative proposals focus on strengthening the "mental health needs of students, building strong relationships with students, families and the community, collaboration with school resource offices, and addressing the high caseloads of school counselors and other professionals." A key to the success of these initiatives is social and emotional learning (SEL).

SEL begins long before children reach school, and is a key to a child's school achievement and success later in life. The evidence makes clear that early experiences matter, and children benefit from positive early childhood environments. When children attend high quality pre-kindergarten, for example, they display "fewer problem behaviors and had more positive student-teacher relationships." When preschoolers are introduced to SEL skills, they learn to deal with their feelings in more constructive ways, including internalizing behavior, student-teacher relations, and classroom conflict. As they develop Social and Emotional skills, toddles and young children learn to "work toward regulating their emotions in a safe environment as well as achieving academically and socially."

Fortunately, Tennessee is one state that recognizes the importance of SEL for improved child development and outcomes. According to Tennessee's early childhood development milestones, by one year of age, children should exhibit a sense of self concept by showing likes and dislikes, as well as paying attention and responding to their name; by age two, children should exhibit self control by testing who is in charge; and by age three, they should exhibit cooperation by playing cooperatively with other children and responding to their feelings as well.


Policy Insider. (2013). CEC/CCBD Congressional Testimony Proposes 4-Point Plan To Address School Safety. Council for Exceptional Children. Available here.

Gunter, Leslie, Paul Caldarella, Byran B. Korth, and K. Richard Young. (2012) Promoting Social and Emotional Learning in Preschool Students: A Study of Strong Start Pre-K. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

Wildenger, Leah K., Laura Lee McIntyre. Investigating the Relation Between Kindergarten Preparation and Child Socio-Behavioral School Outcomes. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.