Process

Process

This process will help districts adopt and implement evidence-based SEL programs and practices in all schools and grade levels, provide related professional learning to staff, support schools in engaging families and community partners around programs and practices, and use data to monitor implementation and outcomes. Use the Rubric to assess your current level of implementation.

The success of your evidence-based SEL programs depends on high-quality implementation. That means that your district adheres as closely as possible to the provider’s intention when implementing the program. Below are the steps for identifying and selecting an evidence-based program. After the steps, you’ll find examples of how two districts selected and implemented evidence-based programs.

1. Introduce key staff to the concept and implications of selecting an evidence-based program.

Engage those who will be using or supervising the program to help with review and selection, such as district administrators, principals, teachers, support staff, out-of-school time staff, and comm…More

Engage those who will be using or supervising the program to help with review and selection, such as district administrators, principals, teachers, support staff, out-of-school time staff, and community partners, as well as those whose support you will need, such as your district’s curriculum committee and your professional learning staff.

Here are some resources that you can share to help participants understand the value of an evidence-based SEL program:

2. Review any SEL programs that are used in your district, and any gaps in programming.

Start by determining whether there are any SEL programs already being implemented in your district. If so, investigate each program’s evidence base. You can use the More

Start by determining whether there are any SEL programs already being implemented in your district. If so, investigate each program’s evidence base. You can use the CASEL program guide as a resource.

Consider whether any of the existing programs are strong candidates for expansion. A strong candidate for expansion would have:

  • Strong support from the teachers and principals who have already implemented it.
  • Existing capacity in the district to deliver professional learning related to the program.
  • A cost-effective model for expansion that includes materials, training, and ongoing implementation support for a larger group of teachers.
  • Integration with academic standards or curricula that have already occurred or is underway.
  • Local evaluation data showing a strong impact on students in your district.

After looking more closely at the evidence-based programs used in your district, you can start to identify needs to address. For example, there may be specific grade levels that have fewer structures for SEL. You may also want to use district- or school-level data to identify grade levels that could benefit from additional support.

3. Clarify your priorities and needs for program selection.

The program you select should be aligned to the needs of your students and their families, meet the needs of your schools that will be using the program, and align with district priorities. As a re…More

The program you select should be aligned to the needs of your students and their families, meet the needs of your schools that will be using the program, and align with district priorities. As a review team, discuss the following questions to clarify these needs and priorities:

  • What would a program need to include so that it is able to meet the needs of our student population and their families? (Consider cultural and linguistic needs, etc.)
  • What kind of program makes sense based on the needs of our schools? (Consider the time needed to prepare for and teach the program, type of materials needed, time needed for training, etc.)
  • What district goals should our SEL program support? (Does the district have specific goals around increasing academic performance? Decreasing discipline rates? Improving attendance? Other relevant goals?)
  • What other district initiatives and programs will the SEL program need to align with? (PBIS? Out-of-school time programming? State standards? Other programs and initiatives?)
  • What schools and grade levels will our program need to address? (Note that few programs will meet the needs of students PreK-12 so you may need to identify multiple programs if focused on all grades. If focused on select grades or schools, think about how implementation might build over time to reach all grades and all schools.)
  • What is our budget for program implementation and professional learning? (For strategies for funding and sustaining evidence-based SEL programs see the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report on Supporting Social and Emotional Learning with Evidence-Based Programs.)
  • What other parameters do we need to keep in mind?

4. Review and identify programs based on your priorities.

Complete this step even if you plan to expand an existing program so you can build your knowledge about that program. Start by consulting the More

Complete this step even if you plan to expand an existing program so you can build your knowledge about that program. Start by consulting the CASEL Program Guide for a list of evidence-based SEL programs that meet its “SELect criteria.” The Guide provides a systematic framework for evaluating the quality of social and emotional programs, which is used to identify and rate well-designed, evidence-based SEL programs. The Guide also shares best-practice guidelines for district and school teams on how to select and implement SEL programs.

Quality evidence-based SEL programs:

  • Are well-designed and promote students’ social and emotional skills.
  • Provide high-quality professional learning to support implementation.
  • Are evidence-based, as indicated by rigorous research.

Note that if you’re planning to implement the program districtwide or in a large number of schools, you may want to or be required to send out a request for proposal (RFP) for SEL programs. You can use the priorities you identified and other requirements around materials, delivery, training, coaching, support, and evaluation to create an RFP.

If you are not using an RFP process, your team can select one to three evidence-based programs that meet your district’s priorities and merit deeper review. To learn more about the programs you are considering:

  • Visit a program’s website and/or arrange a call with the provider. A few things to look for are:
    • An overview of the program and how it approaches social and emotional competence development. Also review the description in the CASEL Program Guide, since programs may change.
    • The scope and sequence of the program’s content.
    • Instructional practices that support SEL and foster positive relationships.
    • Information about the cultural sensitivity and linguistic responsiveness of the program. Also, review the description in the CASEL Program Guide, since programs may change.
    • Sample materials and videos illustrating the program in actual classrooms and schools.
    • Recent research reports. Make sure the outcomes the program promotes align with or improve upon the description in the CASEL Program Guide, since program revisions may result in different outcomes.
    • Professional learning and support for ongoing technical assistance provided.
    • An overview of costs associated with implementing the program, including costs for:
      • Core program materials.
      • Supplemental materials, such as materials for families.
      • Professional learning and other kinds of implementation support, such as on-site coaching and consultation.
      • Consumable materials or materials that require annual updating.
    • Whether the program can certify district and school staff to deliver workshops or other professional learning events on their own (a train-the-trainer approach).
    • Availability of guidance and tools for monitoring implementation and evaluating student outcomes. (These may have been updated since the CASEL Program Guide was published.)
    • Timeline: When would trainers or materials be available for introduction and review by your district?
    • Longevity of materials: Are revisions to materials planned in the next two years? If so, negotiate for materials to be replaced at a discount once new versions are released.
  • Contact other districts that have experience with the program. Ask the program providers for this information, or search online for districts that reference the program on their websites.
    • Visit or arrange phone conversations with practitioners to get their input on the information you’ve gathered and address any remaining questions. Be sure to ask:
      • Is the provider’s estimate of the time needed to implement the program accurate?
      • Was the professional learning provided adequate to support high-quality implementation?
      • What other needs emerged during start-up and how were they addressed?
      • Were the costs identified by the provider adequate to achieve start-up? Consider whether your district can afford to implement this program across most schools and grade levels over time.
      • Are they able to implement with fidelity to the program design? If so, what impacts are they seeing on student outcomes?
      • Is the provider responsive to questions and prompt in scheduling professional learning and support visits?

After completing your review, follow district procedures for program selection (e.g., adhering to the RFP process, or presenting final recommendations to superintendent or the appropriate curriculum or board committee).

5. Decide on a rollout strategy.

Depending on the size of your district, its budget, and its needs, you may choose to pilot the program in some of your schools or grade levels before expanding the program districtwide.

Pilo…More

Depending on the size of your district, its budget, and its needs, you may choose to pilot the program in some of your schools or grade levels before expanding the program districtwide.

Piloting allows you to:

  • Test how the program fits into your instructional day and aligns with other curricula.
  • Identify needs and challenges, enabling coaches to respond to those challenges.

You may want to pilot if your district is large or if you need the opportunity to demonstrate results early in your SEL implementation. If you choose to pilot, your district will also need a plan for expansion over time to reach all schools and students districtwide.

  • Example: Anchorage Public Schools and Sacramento City Unified School District (districts with dozens of large schools and without a large central office infrastructure to support implementation at first) rolled out SEL in cohorts of schools each year, with the intention of reaching all schools in five to seven years.

To determine if you should pilot or undertake full implementation, consider the following factors (adapted from Social Emotional Learning: Why Students Need It. What Districts Are Doing About It):

Pilot
Enabling Conditions

  • The larger the district the more difficult—financially and logistically—it is to implement in all schools, making piloting with smaller numbers of schools a preferred option.
  • Districts with high levels of school autonomy may want to begin with smaller groups of schools that volunteer, rather than requiring all schools to implement immediately.
  • Gradual implementation allows networking among more and less experienced cohorts, which builds trust and natural learning communities.
  • Funds are only available to implement in some schools each year.

Challenges

  • Districts must still build capacity for implementation among teachers and leaders. This includes professional learning but also central policy and program adjustments that support full implementation and embed the evidence-based program(s) in district routines and procedures.
  • Districts must plan and communicate the path to full implementation so early implementers know how their experience will inform the district and later adopters know what to expect.
  • Districts must decide whether to require certain program(s) or allow schools to experiment with a few, knowing one or more may later be excluded from districtwide implementation based on the pilot experience.

Districtwide
Enabling Conditions

  • Smaller districts will find it easier to implement in all schools.
  • High student mobility will require consistency across schools as quickly as possible.
  • Districtwide implementation can enable alignment of professional learning.
  • Widespread buy-in that is at risk of dissipating quickly may require districtwide implementation.
  • Short-term funds are available to support districtwide start-up that may not be available to support cohorts over time.

Challenges

  • If the central office doesn’t have the capacity to oversee full-time implementation, the district will have to develop teacher leaders and local coaches to ensure implementation occurs with fidelity districtwide.

6. Develop guidelines about how schools will implement the program(s).

The guidelines should be consistent with the provider’s recommendations and guidelines to implement with fidelity.

Here are some things to consider including in the implementation guidelines…More

The guidelines should be consistent with the provider’s recommendations and guidelines to implement with fidelity.

Here are some things to consider including in the implementation guidelines:

  • Who will implement the program? Most programs require that teachers implement, but it may also be possible to have counselors, youth advocates, mentors, and others who are qualified implement the program(s) you choose.
  • When should the program be implemented? During what subject, period, or time of day? Will the schools have a choice?
  • How will the program be implemented? Will it be implemented through direct instruction? With technology (some programs require viewing of video clips to implement with fidelity)? With certain district-prioritized instructional strategies?
  • What time frame does implementation with fidelity require? How often is the program implemented? For how long? With what gaps in between?
  • Will the district require the use of supplemental materials, or will this be the school’s choice? If required, when should supplemental lessons be implemented, and by whom?
  • Will the district require the use of family lessons or take-home materials, or will this be the school’s choice? If required, when should these be implemented and by whom?

7. Communicate your program selection and implementation plan to district leaders, teachers, support staff, students, families, and the community.

Share the program philosophy and strategies to establish a unifying framework, common language, and coordinated approach to SEL throughout your district.

Here are things to consider includin…More

Share the program philosophy and strategies to establish a unifying framework, common language, and coordinated approach to SEL throughout your district.

Here are things to consider including in your communications:

  • Ensure that you include key stakeholders and other leaders who are already familiar with your district’s plan for SEL through early introductions and building district expertise.
  • Share outcomes, relevant research, and testimonials from other implementing districts to communicate the value of your evidence-based SEL program(s).
  • Give staff online or other access to explore the chosen program.
  • Share your timeline and targets for piloting and ongoing implementation.
  • Share your guidance for implementation (developed in Step 7).
  • Communicate how implementers will be supported through initial professional learning and subsequent coaching or professional learning.

8. Develop an ongoing professional learning plan for implementers and coaches.

Use the tool for Planning for Professional Learning on Evidence-Based Programs to plan your professional learning. This tool includes a completed sample plan. This tool will help you plan for:

  • Targeted audiences
  • Communicating program implementation guidelines
  • Program content connections (instructional strategies and schoolwide practices)
  • Professional learning and coaching logistics
  • Timing
  • Certification

For the initial implementation, consider purchasing training directly from the provider or publisher of your chosen evidence-based program(s). Here are some tips for effective training:

  • Ensure the training occurs as closely as possible to the point in time when implementation will begin, keeping in mind that effective professional learning occurs in increments to provide time for practice.
  • Consider “booster” sessions to reinforce the concepts from previous sessions and provide opportunities for the participants to learn from each other and explore new strategies. Booster sessions can help ensure that understanding of the program continues to deepen and that staff stays on track.
  • Engage district leaders who will observe and supervise implementers or provide specific training to support their role.
  • Ensure adult learning methods are used, including modeling and role plays, cascading, and similarly engaging and appropriate activities.

Train coaches to provide critical support for effective implementation over time. Effective coaching strategies include:

  • Describing and modeling specific instructional skills followed by opportunities for staff to practice these new skills and receive feedback.
  • Direct observation of teachers in classroom settings followed by feedback on their performance.
  • Helping staff reflect on their use of new teaching practices.
  • Goal setting and goal review.
  • Ongoing planning for specific problems such as what to do when students have challenges using skills or how to balance the program with competing demands.

9. Implement and monitor the success of the evidence-based program.

Once you’ve begun implementation, you’ll want to identify a tool to monitor implementation.

As you’re planning how to monitor implementation, think about how you will:

Once you’ve begun implementation, you’ll want to identify a tool to monitor implementation.

As you’re planning how to monitor implementation, think about how you will:

  • Gather data from the monitoring tool for centralized use and analysis.
  • Gather formal feedback from implementers on their experience, additional training needs, additional materials needs, and any ideas on how to improve the implementation for your district. This may be communicated directly to coaches, through focus groups or professional learning, or through online surveys.
  • Support central staff, coaches, and/or school leaders in observation of program implementation. Provide an SEL Observation Tool so leaders know what they should see in high-quality implementation.
  • Provide coaching to implementers to support a cycle of improving practice through collaboration and reflection.

We recommend your district establish virtual or building-based professional learning communities to support implementers and building administrators to enable them to share their experiences and ideas and deepen their practice over time.

10. Deepen and expand practice over time.

Remember to focus on how you can continue to grow your SEL implementation.

Here are some ways to do this:

  • Integrate language and practices from your evidence-based program(s) in…More

Remember to focus on how you can continue to grow your SEL implementation.

Here are some ways to do this:

  • Integrate language and practices from your evidence-based program(s) into core curricular materials and activities.
  • Use extension activities included in your evidence-based program(s) to maximize practice for students.
  • Integrate program language, philosophy, and strategies into after-school and summer programming.

As your district’s experience grows with an evidence-based program(s), you may notice some students could benefit from additional SEL supports. Consider adopting additional programs to address the need for additional support. These programs may be universal or maybe more targeted and aligned with your district’s MTSS strategy.

Selecting and Implementing Evidence-based Programs in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and Austin Independent School District

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools

In the fall of 2012, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools used a request for proposals (RFP) process to identify and select evidence-based SEL programs. Central to the selection process was a district committee with representation from several departments.

To be eligible for selection, a program had to:

  • Include CASEL’s five SEL core competencies.
  • Be school-based and provide sequenced lessons to general student populations.
  • Include lessons for at least two consecutive grades or grade spans, or have a structure that promotes lesson reinforcement beyond the first program year.
  • Be supported by at least one year of evidence demonstrating effectiveness.
  • Provide professional learning and implementation support that goes beyond an initial workshop to include on-site observation and coaching.

A well-qualified program was ultimately selected for adoption districtwide in the elementary schools. At the secondary level, two programs were selected for districtwide adoption. The committee also chose several other SEL programs during the RFP process that individual schools could purchase with their own funds.

Austin Independent School District

Implementation of SEL in Austin began with training for vertical teams of schools (feeder patterns), purchase of instructional materials for teachers, and coaching support. Due to the large financial commitment in materials and coaching, the district chose to scale up implementation through the vertical team process. See AISD’s SEL Rollout Process.

2011-2012

Initial Implementation Teams

  • Austin High, Crockett—received initial professional development, instructional materials, coaching support

2012-2013

Initial Implementation Teams

  • Eastside Memorial, McCallum, Travis— received initial professional development, instructional materials, coaching support

Continuing implementation teams

  • Austin High, Crockett—deepened work in integration; family/community training; continued coaching support and professional development’

2013-2014

Initial Implementation Teams

  • Akins—received initial professional development, instructional materials, coaching support

Continuing implementation teams

  • Austin High, Crockett, Eastside, McCallum, Travis—deepened work in integration; family/community training; continued coaching support and professional development; added implementation rubric and student assessment

2014-2015

Initial Implementation Teams

  • LBJ, Reagan—received initial professional development, instructional materials, coaching support

Continuing implementation teams

  • Austin High, Crockett, Eastside, McCallum, Travis, Akins—deepened work in integration; family/community training; continued coaching support and professional development; implementation rubric and student assessment; added restorative practices support

2015-2016

Initial Implementation Teams

  • Anderson, Lanier—received initial professional development, instructional materials, coaching support

Continuing implementation teams

  • Austin High, Crockett, Eastside, McCallum, Travis, Akins, LBJ, Reagan—deepened work in integration; family/community training; continued coaching support and professional development; implementation rubric and student assessment; restorative practices support; added mindfulness support
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