Reflect on Progress Toward Annual SEL Goals

Reflect on Progress Toward Annual SEL Goals

Reflecting on actionable data helps schools and districts understand what is working well with SEL implementation and what needs to change.

Below you’ll find an overview of: WHAT high-quality implementation looks like, WHY it’s important, WHEN to engage in this key activity, and WHO to involve. Also see the PROCESS page for step-by-step guidance on how to engage in the work, and the RESOURCES page for additional tools to support your efforts.

What does it mean to reflect on progress toward annual SEL goals?


Reflecting on progress means assessing whether SEL goals were achieved. This is done by reviewing how implementation is going and what impact it’s having throughout the year and at the end of the school year.  This process involves compiling, analyzing, and reflecting on data related to agreed upon SEL goals for students and adults.

The full process looks something like this: 


This part of the Guide, Focus Area 4, is focused on the end-of-year part of the process.  For guidance on getting started with the organize phase, see CASEL’s Action Planning Workbook and Focus Area 1: Shared Vision and Plan

Strong district data collection and reflection practices for SEL continuous improvement involve: 

Compiling implementation and outcome data and making this information available to district and school teams for data reflection.

Disaggregating data by student groups to examine and address systemic root causes of disparities.

Establishing and using norms that promote a safe environment for reflecting on data and a structured protocol to guide reflection.

Engaging students, families, community partners, and staff in scaffolded data reflection to elevate their voices and agency and to gain valuable insights.

Providing ongoing support that empowers school teams to reflect on SEL data for continuous improvement.

Providing structured opportunities for schools to share and learn from each other (e.g., cross-site professional learning communities).

Why does my district need to reflect on progress toward annual SEL goals?


When district and school teams reflect on actionable data in a consistent way, they gain an understanding of what is working well with SEL implementation and what can be improved. This helps them take appropriate action to increase efficiency, improve effectiveness, and address problems of practice to ensure SEL implementation efforts translate into expected outcomes for all students. Learning from data in this way and using this information to improve practice is central to continuous improvement and supports high-quality SEL implementation.

When should my district reflect on progress toward annual SEL goals?


CASEL recommends that district SEL teams engage in summative data reflections, or a comprehensive review of data, at least annually (often at the end of the academic year or grant period) to draw conclusions and make strategic decisions. In addition, schedule time for more frequent formative data reflections with real-time data throughout the year – at least quarterly to make sure plans are on track.

  • Summative data reflections typically require a dedicated meeting or series of meetings that include a broader range of stakeholders to lend their perspective.  Summative reflections involve substantial preparation of data in advance and thoughtful facilitation of discussion (see the PROCESS section for more). CASEL recommends:
    • An initial, beginning of year data reflection to establish baseline data and determine milestones that will mark progress toward end-of-year goals.
    • An end-of-year data reflection when summative conclusions can be made about the effectiveness of implementation strategies.  This end-of-year reflection restarts the cycle of continuous improvement.  If SEL goals and the data used to measure progress remain the same from year to year, the data reviewed at this meeting can serve as a new baseline for the coming year.

Who should be involved in reflecting on progress toward annual SEL goals?


Staff who oversee SEL data collection and management are necessary to ensure that relevant data are compiled in an easy-to-use format and accessible to district and school teams to review.  Systems and structures for sharing data efficiently, such as data dashboards, make it much easier to get data to district and school teams. Developing and maintaining such structures may require additional district staff, such as IT or data teams.

You will also need to consider who should participate in the data reflection process. In most cases, different stakeholders will be involved at different times. District SEL team members should already be involved in frequent, formative data reflections as a regular part of team meetings. At an end-of-year data reflection meeting, bring in a wider range of stakeholders in addition to the district SEL team, including:

  • Key staff members from departments that lead SEL work across the district
  • Members of the district Research and Evaluation department
  • School leadership and their supervisors
  • Teacher representatives
  • Community partners that help support SEL in the district
  • Student representation, especially when reviewing districtwide data related to students’ perceptions and outcomes
  • Families and caregivers

When examining SEL data it is essential to use a lens of equity – that is, ensuring inclusive data reflection and decision-making practices and addressing disparities between student groups.   Disparities among groups of students indicate a need for improvement in the practices and policies of the system, not deficiencies or failures of the students themselves. To address disparities, any conversation about improving those practices and policies must involve students who have experienced them.  Also include the input and perspective of a diverse range of stakeholders, representative of the district community, including families and caregivers, students across backgrounds, community partners, educators, and school and district leaders to make these conversations as meaningful and generative as possible. Conversations around disparities in the data seen between student groups can be sensitive and require courageous engagement from all participants.  It is important to ensure an environment that feels safe, non-judgmental, and inclusive for all.  See this recommended process for establishing norms for reviewing data for more.

Data as an opportunity to share power, deepen relationships, and continuously improve support for students, families, and staff

Data reflection is an ideal opportunity to include students, families, and community partners in the process of continuous improvement, as their perspectives are critical to more deeply understand the impact of SEL efforts.

By partnering with students, districts can better understand how they experience school and how that can inform plans to improve learning and school climate.  In developmentally appropriate and authentic ways, students can examine data, identify strengths and issues, and co-create solutions to address problems and reach districtwide goals.

Districts also benefit from engaging families in survey/interview design and collecting, reflecting upon, and taking action based on data as they bring deep expertise about students’ lived experiences, their culture, and the issues they care about.  Community partners also bring a unique perspective from relationships with students that may occur outside of school time.

When seeking family and community representatives for data reflection, it is important to ensure input from those who are historically marginalized and pay attention to power dynamics that may lead to incomplete interpretations of data and biases in decision-making.

While reflecting on data at the district level, a parallel process should occur within individual schools.  District SEL leaders should play a role in providing school-level data and discussion protocols and modeling a process for reflection.  For more about school-level continuous improvement, see CASEL’s Guide to Schoolwide SEL, Focus Area 4.

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