Evidence-based Social and Emotional Learning Programs

Criteria Updates and Rationale

December 1, 2020
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For PreK-12 educators seeking a high-quality, evidence-based SEL program, our reviews of programs have been the field’s go-to resource since 2013. What criteria do we use? And why?

In 2020, we updated our criteria, including that programs must:

  • Be universal, that is for use with all students
  • Delivered during the school day
  • Designed for students in the pre-kindergarten to high school grade range
  • Have written documentation of their approach to promoting students’ social and emotional development
  • Provide a sufficient level of detail to ensure the consistency and quality of program delivery

Finally, evaluation and design and implementation criteria are evaluated according to the type and rigor of evidence provided and key features that programs must demonstrate to be included in the guide.

Since our last updates in 2015, the field has progressed in terms of research, practice, and policy. The revised criteria reflect the significant progress the field has made in areas such as academic integration, equity, adult SEL, and partnerships with families and communities–and our updated definitions of SEL. This rationale brief addresses questions such as:

  • How are federal ESSA evaluation requirements accounted for?
  • How is equity elevated and represented in the revised criteria?
  • Why did we expand the number of outcomes to be considered during program reviews?
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