The students of Nashville need more support developing the social and emotional skills that will prove vital to their professional careers. 

That's according to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce's latest Education Report Card, an annual report compiled by a committee of 21 business and community leaders. This year's report, available in full here, calls for Metro Nashville Public Schools and others to "strongly consider recommendations focused on advancing skills students need to function in school and in life," according to a news release. 

Examples of the skills that can be taught through Social Emotional Learning (SEL) efforts include managing emotions, creating positive relationships and setting goals. Those are "too often … mislabeled as 'soft skills,' reduced to discipline measures or made secondary to academics," the release says, even as industry leaders recognize the interpersonal skills gap that can hold back students, as opposed to technical skills that are more often discussed. 

The committee that authored the report offered the following five recommendations for achieving its Social Emotional Learning goals: 

  • The MNPS School Board should enact a policy that ends out-of-school suspensions, expulsions or arrests in Pre-K through 4th grade, except for the most egregious acts.
  • MNPS should create a program to identify and develop highly effective principals as mentors for other administrators, with a specific emphasis on setting a school vision, establishing a restorative culture and galvanizing multiple community resources to bolster SEL and academic achievement.
  • MNPS should require every in the school in district to identify one peer-elected teacher to serve as an SEL lead and provide them with the additional planning period to support and train other teachers, provide feedback on classroom culture and communicate directly with the SEL department.
  • MNPS, in direct partnership with community partners, should conduct a cluster-based needs assessment with the goal of aligning MNPS and community resources across school tiers to provide consistent access for students and families.
  • The mayor’s office should create an action team made up of representatives from the school district, Metro government and the business and nonprofit communities to consider the impact of the city’s growth on our youngest Nashvillians, specifically gentrification and displacement, and focus on how services to address these issues are mindful of the needs of families with children.

The committee that compiled the Education Report Card was co-chaired by Dane Danielson, of Gould Turner Group PC, and Clifton Harris, of Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

Originally Published in Nashville Business Journal