Process

Process

This process will support districts in ensuring the SEL team/lead has influence, developing structures to promote cross-department collaboration and aligned strategies, and embedding SEL into frameworks for equity, academics, and school improvement. Use the Rubric to assess your current level of implementation.

1. Review and align your district goals, plans, and frameworks around SEL, academics, and equity.

District SEL leaders can initiate integration by outlining the relevance of SEL within other district goals and workstreams.   Robert Blum’s short article “More

District SEL leaders can initiate integration by outlining the relevance of SEL within other district goals and workstreams.   Robert Blum’s short article “A Case for School Connectedness” outlines the base of evidence showing that supportive teachers, positive and respectful relationships, and emotional safety are linked to outcomes that practically all districts prioritize — academic achievement, graduation, attendance, and reduced misconduct.

Crosswalk your SEL goals and strategies with your district’s strategic plan, school improvement goals and frameworks, and any other major district priorities or initiatives. Determine:

  • Which district priorities and goals have clear connections to SEL?
  • What district priorities and goals could be strengthened by SEL?
  • How does SEL implementation currently support these priorities and goals?
  • How could SEL implementation better support these priorities and goals?

In particular, you’ll want to review your district’s priorities and plans around SEL, academic, and equity efforts.  Consider the following questions:

  • Does your district have a strategic plan that aligns the goals and efforts around SEL, academics, and equity? Or are there separate implementation plans around each effort? Who is involved in each of these plans?
  • How do the goals, strategies, and frameworks around SEL, academics, and equity connect? Are there any areas of disconnect?
  • What do districtwide efforts around SEL, academics, and equity require of school and district staff? Are there overlapping or competing asks?

If you’re finding any disconnect between your SEL plans and academic- and equity-related efforts, you’ll want to bring department or team leads together to discuss and address these areas of disconnect. It may also be beneficial to create or discuss shared goals, and outline how each department’s strategies contribute to these goals.

If you’ve created an SEL implementation plan, you’ll also want to review this plan closely and identify areas where collaboration with other departments or with schools is needed. For example, rolling out an SEL curriculum will require close collaboration with schools to train and support teachers. It will also likely require working with academic departments to ensure the SEL curriculum is aligned to and supported by teaching frameworks or practices. You may also need to work with the Equity department or staff to review the cultural relevance of the curriculum and identify ways to support teachers in culturally competent SEL instruction.

2. Review your district’s existing departmental structures and collaborative practices.

Next, review what structures already exist in the district that promote collaboration within the cabinet, between departments, and between central office and schools.

You may want to start b…More

Next, review what structures already exist in the district that promote collaboration within the cabinet, between departments, and between central office and schools.

You may want to start by looking at the district’s organizational chart and, in particular, where the SEL team is housed. One of the clearest ways to promote collaboration is to create departmental structures that ensure SEL, academics, and equity have shared priorities and strategies. For example, many districts house the SEL team under academic departments such as Teaching and Learning or College and Career Readiness; others have established the SEL team as a part of their Equity department.

While there are many ways to organize departments, CASEL strongly recommends that SEL work is housed in a department that is focused on all students rather than placing SEL in a specialized service department. This ensures that SEL efforts are woven into the district’s holistic approach to education, not used as an isolated intervention for only at-risk students or schools. Here are some sample organizational charts:

If the SEL team is housed in a separate department from academics and equity, review how regularly these teams come together to plan and share best practices. Also, examine how the central office works with school leaders and their supervisors to plan and implement key priorities.

Lastly, you’ll want to review how the SEL team is able to collaborate with and influence the district’s top leadership. Consider the following questions:

  • How often does the SEL lead or team get to meet with the cabinet?
  • How often does the cabinet discuss SEL progress and receive updates on implementation?
  • How does the cabinet communicate feedback to the SEL team?

3. Schedule regular updates and feedback sessions for the superintendent’s cabinet on SEL priorities and plans.

If the superintendent’s cabinet is not already engaging regularly with the district’s SEL lead, plan how you will maintain senior leadership’s focus on SEL priorities and plans. You may want to pla…More

If the superintendent’s cabinet is not already engaging regularly with the district’s SEL lead, plan how you will maintain senior leadership’s focus on SEL priorities and plans. You may want to plan a regular cadence of SEL updates as part of existing cabinet meetings. This may be an opportunity for the SEL lead to present on progress toward implementation goals, highlight successes, or raise challenges that need senior leadership’s support. This also provides a way for senior leadership to provide feedback to ensure SEL implementation stays aligned to the district’s overall vision. Ongoing collaboration with the cabinet helps ensure SEL remains a top district priority.

4. Set up collaborative structures between district leaders who are responsible for SEL, academic, and equity initiatives.

After you’ve developed shared goals and aligned frameworks for SEL, academics, and equity, you’ll want to ensure collaboration continues throughout implementation. It’s a good idea to set up regula…More

After you’ve developed shared goals and aligned frameworks for SEL, academics, and equity, you’ll want to ensure collaboration continues throughout implementation. It’s a good idea to set up regular cross-departmental meetings so that district staff working on SEL, academics, and equity can collaboratively monitor progress toward shared goals, keep each other updated on implementation plans, share best practices, and continue aligning strategies. These meetings are also an opportunity to build supportive relationships between staff that help deepen the level of collaboration. You may want to use the three signature practices of SEL as a way to structure these meetings to build collaboration.

Work together to identify common goals and strategies for integration. The goal is to explore areas of mutual enhancement, not areas of overlap or to “tack on” SEL to something they are doing, which could make a potential partner feel territorial or inconvenienced.   Consider the following questions as you explore integration possibilities:

  • Can SEL enhance student or adult skill development to better achieve the objective of the priority?
  • Can SEL build connections among students or adults to improve their ability to work collaboratively to achieve a goal related to the priority?
  • Can SEL practices enhance the priority with students or parents by offering positive and supportive opportunities for engagement?
  • Can SEL training increase positive and supportive staff engagement with students to help them take full advantage of strategies or interventions related to the priority?
  • Can aligning any of the priorities with current SEL activities provide greater continuity for students, staff, or parents to help with implementation or increase success for the priority?

5. Set up collaborative structures between the SEL team, school leaders, and their supervisors.

Because the success of your district SEL plan will likely rely heavily on how schools engage in implementation, it is critically important to collaborate closely with school leaders and their super…More

Because the success of your district SEL plan will likely rely heavily on how schools engage in implementation, it is critically important to collaborate closely with school leaders and their supervisors. You’ll want to ensure that any plans for SEL implementation are closely aligned to and supportive of any overall school improvement plans and that SEL is embedded in the school’s own strategic plans. This may mean setting up regular meetings with district leaders who supervise principals to align goals and strategies and get their feedback on SEL rollout plans. Many districts have also found it helpful to bring together cohorts of principals and/or school teams regularly to collaborate on SEL implementation.

6. Review and refine collaborative practices.

While cross-departmental meetings and aligned frameworks help build collaboration, these structures alone do not ensure that meaningful collaboration is occurring. It’s important to build in a regu…More

While cross-departmental meetings and aligned frameworks help build collaboration, these structures alone do not ensure that meaningful collaboration is occurring. It’s important to build in a regular routine of reflecting on and refining collaborative practices. This may occur as a debrief during existing collaboration meetings, through surveys and focus groups, or during a separate set-aside time. When reflecting, consider the following questions:

  • How well did we collaborate over this past [project, month, quarter, etc.] to reach our shared goals?
  • Did all involved stakeholders feel like they were kept “in the loop”? Why or why not?
  • Were all of our different priorities and needs represented and addressed during collaboration? Were any priorities routinely left out?
  • Were our collaborative meetings run efficiently and effectively, and did they provide an opportunity for equity of voice?
  • Were there any missed opportunities for collaboration?
  • What can we do to improve collaboration going forward?

The SEL team can also take stock of all SEL-related initiatives to improve collaboration, and regularly share with other departments how SEL efforts support broad district priorities and goals in order to prevent the viewing of SEL as “another thing”.

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