History of Program Reviews at CASEL

CASEL published its first review of SEL programs almost ten years ago. Many advances in SEL research, practice, and policy have occurred since the publication of Safe and Sound: An Educational Leader’s Guide to Evidence-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs. For example:

  • A growing body of research links SEL to improved attitudes about school, prosocial behavior and academic achievement and reductions in aggression, mental health problems, and substance use.
  • There is increased interest in going beyond classroom-based implementation of one SEL program to coordinated, systemic schoolwide and district-wide SEL programming.
  • A scan of 50 states indicates that many states have established preschool through high school student learning standards that emphasize social and emotional competence. Also, federal legislation—most notably, the Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act has been introduced with bipartisan support.

Because of the advances in SEL research and practice over the past few years, the current CASEL Guide differs in several ways from Safe and Sound. Most notably, the current Guide is more selective and the criteria for inclusion are more rigorous than they were in the previous review.

  • Our criteria for characterizing programs as “evidence-based” are more stringent. We recommend programs that document improved student behavior only if their research included a comparison group in addition to pretest and posttest measurement of behavior.
  • We have broadened the types of programs included in the current review to include lesson-based programs that provide explicit SEL skill instruction, teacher instructional practices and pedagogy, and programs that fully integrate SEL with academic content in specific core content areas.
  • In the previous review we included programs for grades K-12. The current Guide expands our coverage to include preschool approaches. There is increasing recognition of the importance of preschool education to support child development and school readiness. In fact, all 50 states have preschool social and emotional development student learning standards. Early childhood education is now a clear priority in federal goals and legislation (e.g., Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, 2012) as well as state education policies, and preschool education has expanded in the past decade.
  • Our current and future reviews will be more developmentally focused. Thus, we are separating the reviews of preschool, elementary, middle, and high school programming. The current Guide focuses on preschool and elementary (K–5) programs. The review of middle and high school programming will be released in 2014.
  • This Guide will be revised and updated continually. Moreover, key elements of the Guide and future versions will be formatted specifically for presentation on CASEL’s website. Our intention is to make the CASEL reviews as accessible, up-to-date, and user-friendly as possible.