Frequently Asked Questions

About SEL

1. What is SEL?

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

SEL competencies include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

SEL competencies are fostered through a positive and supportive environment where trusting relationships are formed and maintained, and through experiences and instruction that promote social and emotional skill development.

SEL is important for both adults and the students they teach. When adults practice these competencies, they help create a productive, welcoming environment and reinforce SEL by modeling these competencies for students.

2. What are the positive benefits of SEL for students, schools, and communities?

According to a meta-analysis of 213 evaluation studies, students receiving high-quality SEL programming saw the following gains:

  • Standardized test scores that were an average of 11 percentile points higher than for students who did not receive SEL programming.
  • Improved commitment to school, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school.
  • Higher graduation rates and college attendance, lower rates of criminal arrest, and fewer mental health problems over the long term.

According to a new 2017 meta-analysis:

  • 3.5 years after the last intervention the academic performance of students exposed to SEL programs was an average of 13 percentile points higher than their non-SEL peers, based on the eight studies that measured academic performance.
  • At other follow-up periods, conduct problems, emotional distress, and drug use were all significantly lower for students exposed to SEL programs, and development of social and emotional skills and positive attitudes toward self, others, and school was higher.
  • There are statistically significant associations between measured social-emotional skills in kindergarten and key young adult outcomes across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health. Link
  • People who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to the community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. Link

About CDI

1. What is the Collaborating Districts Initiative?

In 2011, CASEL entered into an ongoing collaboration with partner districts and American Institutes for Research (AIR). Called the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI), this partnership was designed to achieve two complementary goals:

  • To develop the capacity of these districts to plan, implement, and monitor systemic changes to enhance students’ social-emotional development and academic performance.
  • To document lessons learned that can inform future efforts to support systemic SEL implementation in districts across the country.

By pursing these goals, the CDI sought to address next-generation questions:

Can large urban school districts put into place the policies and practices that would promote the social and emotional competencies of all students throughout the district? If so, how?

What outcomes would we see for students as a result of these policies and practices?

CDI partner districts include:

  • Anchorage, Austin, Chicago, Cleveland, Nashville, Oakland, Sacramento, and Washoe County, Nev. Since the partnership started, we have also expanded to Atlanta and El Paso, Texas.

2. What outcomes have we seen from the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI)?

After six years, AIR reported:

  • Increases in GPAs, attendance, graduation rates, and math + ELA scores;
  • Decreases in suspensions and expulsions;
  • Improvements in school climate and social and emotional competence.

Evaluation of the multiyear effort also verified the validity of CASEL’s Theory of Action and identified key implementation insights:

  • Systemic SEL is possible.
  • SEL ideally is integrated into every aspect of the district’s work and the school’s work.
  • Successful implementation can follow multiple pathways, based on each district’s unique needs and strengths, and leadership commitment is essential.
  • Adult SEL matters.
  • Data for continuous improvement are essential.
  • Districts benefit from collaborating with each other.

About DRC

1. Where should my district start on the District Resource Guide?

The 16 key activities of the DRC make up CASEL’s District Framework (or Theory of Action).  In order to achieve systemic SEL in a district, we recommend districts engage in all 16 areas.  However, there is no prescribed order for implementation or reviewing the material in the DRC. Districts should feel free to tailor their use of the site to their needs.

There are several ways to approach the DRC.

  • You can start with the priority setting questionnaire to see which areas are most relevant to your work and SEL priorities.
  • Or you can browse the entire district framework and self-identify an area you’d like to explore.
  • Finally, you can check out the resource library by searching on topic or reviewing the index to find resources for models of the kind of work you’re interested in doing.

2. How should my district use these resources?

Resources are intended to be used as a model or source of inspiration for schools and districts to use when developing an approach to implementing SEL that is best suited for the district. Districts should feel free to download and adapt these resources to fit their needs.

They are not ranked or organized by what criteria they meet for best practices – we are showing the different ways that partner districts have approached their work.

Getting Support

1. Who can I contact with questions or comments about the functionality of the District Resource Center?

Please visit CASEL’s contact form and select the District Resource Center from the drop-down “Reason for Contact” menu to submit a question or comment.

We will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you.



Not sure where to begin?

Not sure where to begin?

Use our priority setting questionnaire to reflect on your district’s current SEL implementation and help identify areas for future focus.

Take Priority Setting Questionnaire
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