A note from CASEL: We know that racism and police violence did not begin, and will not end, with a single event. We reaffirm our commitment to the ongoing, collective work of anti-racism. For SEL guidance & support on discussing these events with students, visit casel.org/supportive-environments/
This Month's SEL Conversation | April 2021
Top of Mind: Budgeting for SEL
If you’re wondering about district or state priorities, one should take a close look at their budgets - and this budget season is no exception. There is a fresh urgency and unprecedented opportunity to invest in SEL, including support for students’ learning and development, educator well-being, family and community partnerships, and more inclusive and equitable learning environments. The historic levels of K-12 dollars through the American Rescue Plan can provide a long-term foundation for evidence-based, systemic implementation of SEL as we move beyond the pandemic.

We strongly recommend engaging students, educators, families, and communities in the planning and decision-making process around investments to holistically support all students and adults. Here are seven potential SEL investments to discuss:

  1. Expanded learning opportunities that integrate social, emotional, and academic learning across in-school and out-of-school time
  2. Evidence-based SEL programs that emphasize developmentally appropriate and culturally affirming SEL competencies 
  3. Staffing and schedules that support relationship-centered practices
  4. Support for educator, school staff, and out-of-school time provider well-being
  5. Professional learning that builds educator capacity to promote SEL and create safe, inclusive learning environments for all students
  6. Integrated support systems across schools, families, and communities
  7. Data systems that inform students, educators, and families and support continuous improvement of student outcomes and experiences

With these considerations and resources in mind, this moment offers not only a challenge to meet, but also an opportunity to rebuild our education system to better support every student.
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SEL and Program Selection: Aligning to District Priorities

As districts work to bring SEL to life, the selection of the right programs is critical. So how do you adopt an evidence-based SEL program that is aligned with district priorities, is culturally relevant, and feels like a seamless part of core instruction? That question was raised in El Paso Independent School District (EPISD), which serves over 57,000 PreK-12th grade students in Texas. Our new Practices of Promise series features their story and offers key takeaways, including the importance of meaningfully engaging staff, families, and the whole community. To select SEL programs, the El Paso team worked with a wide range of stakeholders to align with existing initiatives, engaged parents and community members in the decision-making process, and listened to teachers and school leaders about implementation needs. Their example reminds us to consider how programs can support the strengths, cultural backgrounds, and interests of the community, and to ensure the selected programs are supported throughout the district and meet community needs.

Related action: Use this tool to select programs that align with the needs of your community
SEL and Discipline: Developing Equity-Centered Practices

When discipline policies and practices are centered around student learning, developmentally appropriate, and culturally responsive, they can reinforce SEL and support equitable outcomes. Many school districts are moving away from the ineffective strategies of punishment and external control that have been historically used for misbehavior. But study after study has shown that when accounting for a range of student, family, and school level contributors, African American students still receive significantly more exclusionary discipline than white students. To challenge disparities, a new research paper suggests that education leaders need to combine SEL and discipline efforts with a deeper understanding of cultural and historical oppression, capacity-building for adults’ cultural competence, strengths-based supports, and instructional approaches that address opportunity gaps.

Related action: Use this tool to implement restorative practices and SEL together
SEL and Civics: Using Service-Learning to Reach Beyond the Classroom

Parents and teachers agree that SEL and service-learning have a reciprocal, mutually reinforcing relationship. Service-learning offers students real-world experiences that connect classroom learning to life, broaden perspectives, deepen social awareness, and connect actions to the needs of communities. But there is an implementation gap: Only one in 10 teachers believe their schools are very successful at developing students’ ability to apply knowledge to real-world situations and their SEL skills. To address this, we need to strengthen both SEL and civic learning opportunities in tandem. A new report argues for expanding student opportunities like service-learning electives, promoting SEL and service-learning training for staff, as well as embedding it into state standards and workforce prep models.

Related action: Save the date for the 2021 SEL Exchange Virtual Summit on “SEL and Civic Learning for Empowered Youth”
Worth A Read

  • CASEL CEO/President Karen Niemi and CASEL Board Member and Urban Assembly CEO David Adams write that the crises of the past year drive home the importance of SEL in preparing students for the future. 

  • Professor Janine Jones says that when we have SEL curricula “solely focused on practicing an individual skill or technique, but not in relationship with other people, we miss a lot.”

  • Author Stephanie Krauss argues for integrating SEL competencies into education rather than “relegating” it to separate lessons.

  • This report explores how academic indicators could lead to better decision-making and, ultimately, better outcomes for students.

  • CASEL board member emeritus Linda Darling-Hammond coauthored this op-ed exploring a “new normal” that includes SEL.
What's Next

  • Free CASEL webinar explores what we can learn from students’ perspectives on their own experiences

May 2-5: Science & Wisdom of Emotions Summit | Awake Network and Mind & Life Institute

  • Explore how to cultivate emotional well-being, work with challenging emotions, care for others, & participate in the creation of a more interconnected & compassionate world

May 14: Virtual Student Voice Summit: Aiming for Action and Agency! | | Mindful Practices and Class Catalyst

  • Led entirely by K-12 students, this Student Voice Summit will feature young speakers, performers, panelists, and interviews from students of all ages. Educators and their students are welcomed to attend

  • Free CASEL webinar on how the American Rescue Plan (ARP) offers opportunity for long-term investments in SEL

  • Join four, two-hour sessions for school leaders beginning July 13, 2021

  • Sign up to be alerted when registration opens for "Beyond Talk: Building Tomorrow Together"
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Thank you to CASEL's generous sponsors

The Allstate Foundation and CASEL are collaborating to focus the country’s attention on the power of social and emotional learning to equip the next generation with the skills they need to succeed. The Allstate Foundation champions SEL and service-learning programs to ensure youth reach their full potential and have the power to build the just, equitable and healthy world we all deserve. www.AllstateFoundation.org
LG is proud to partner with CASEL to advance SEL. The LG Experience Happiness platform is dedicated to bringing Sustainable Happiness Skills to youth across the country through collaboration, awareness and highly impactful SEL programming. www.LGExperienceHappiness.com