ICR Iowa and ACT Partner to Launch SEL Pilot

ICR Iowa recently announced the launch of a new pilot focused on strengthening social and emotional learning in our regional schools. The pilot is a partnership between the ICR Future Coalition and ACT.

“Employers have been expressing their need for employees with strong soft skills for decades,” said Jennifer Daly, President and CEO of ICR Iowa. “We are excited to be taking a significant step forward in developing and strengthening those social emotional learning skills within our future workforce with the support and partnership of ACT.”

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills and character strengths play a key role in achieving success in school and in life. Yet since most students are not assessed on these skills in a reliable and valid way, parents and teachers have little information on which to base interventions that can be used to help students succeed.

ACT Tessera is an assessment platform and curriculum used to teach and measure five core SEL skills. Decades of research have shown that these factors predict a host of important outcomes across different ages, countries, and cultures, including academic performance, career success, and well-being. The five SEL strengths that Tessera measures are Sustaining Effort, Getting Along with Others, Maintaining Composure, Keeping an Open Mind, and Social Connection. Tessera also measures School Climate.

Through this pilot, school districts served by the Grant Wood Area Education Agency will be invited to use Tessera over a three-year time period with students beginning third, fifth, and/or ninth grade in the fall of 2020. Participating students will take the Tessera assessment in the fall and spring of each school year over three consecutive years to see how the use of an assessment, curriculum, and intervention can strengthen SEL skills.

“We are excited to work with ICR Iowa and the Grant Wood Area Education Agency to bring ACT Tessera to our local schools,” said Jeremy Burrus, Senior Director at ACT. “This partnership will help prepare our students for the future workforce while providing us with valuable data as we work to continually improve our assessment.”

Pilot schools will receive special training on the platform and work with ACT on reviewing data. Parents of students who are taking part in the pilot will receive a Tessera report card indicating their student’s assessment on the five core SEL skills over the three-year pilot period.

There is a $5 per student per year cost to participate in the Tessera pilot. This reflects a 50% discount in the cost of Tessera for non-pilot sites. However, schools that choose the elementary school pilot won’t have any cost for their first pilot year.

“Embracing ACT’s work in social and emotional learning can provide a foundation for positive learning and enhance students’ ability to succeed in school, careers and life,” said Kate Moreland, President for ICAD and ICR Future Coalition Co-Chair. “It is a great opportunity for our districts to have this resource in our community and the partnership can be a real benefit to the future success of our local students.”

Regional economic development partners see this pilot as a way to help the region grow in future years in a unique way. “A region-wide implementation of Tessera could eventually become a game-changer for ICR,” said Daly. “Being able to offer students a high-quality education that emphasizes both academic and SEL skill development may attract young families who want the very best education for their children. A workforce with strong soft skills will almost certainly provide a significant advantage for our existing employers and may also attract new employers eager to take advantage of the talent in our region.”

Schools that are interested in learning more about the pilot should contact Jennifer Daly at ICR Iowa at jdaly@icriowa.org.