Our History

CASEL was formed in 1994 to establish high-quality, evidence-based SEL as an essential part of preschool through high school education.

The history of the social and emotional learning (SEL) movement is the story of a simple, but powerful idea: What if education fully supported the social, emotional, and academic development of all children?

From the seed of that idea, CASEL has been leading a growing movement to make SEL an integral part of education. Beginning in 1994, with a focus on collaboration, our nonprofit grew from a small conference in Kalamazoo to partnerships across the country and an audience around the globe.

Since then, CASEL has served as a leader of the global movement and a trusted voice in the rapidly growing SEL field. Even as we reach more people than ever before, our work remains grounded in our history of working together to support the healthy development of all children.

We invite you to read about CASEL’s history to learn where we come from and where we hope to go. Join us in our journey as we shape an education where all young people have the skills, environments, and relationships to thrive.

Our Founding Story

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The story of SEL is as old as the first relationships between teachers and students. The principles of SEL are present in every caring, collaborative relationship and live in the partnerships between students, schools, families, and communities throughout history. But the work of formalizing this field began more recently.

In 1968, Dr. James Comer and his colleagues at Yale University’s Child Study Center began a program to put their ideas about supporting the “whole child” into practice at two schools in New Haven, Connecticut. By the early 1980s, the two schools saw a decline in behavior challenges and exceeded the national average in academic performance.

Building on that work, the superintendent of New Haven Public Schools, John Dow, Jr., called for a districtwide focus on social development. From 1987-1992, a group of educators and researchers, led by Timothy Shriver and Dr. Roger P. Weissberg, began the New Haven Social Development program that pioneered SEL strategies across K-12 classrooms.

Around the same time, Dr. Weissberg, along with Dr. Maurice Elias, chaired the W.T. Grant Consortium on the School-Based Promotion of Social Competence, bringing together leading experts to create a framework for promoting social and emotional skills in schools.

In 1994, a passionate group of people came together to develop a field that would address the “missing piece” in education. The multidisciplinary collaboration included researchers, educators, practitioners, and child advocates who believed that schools must attend to all children’s social and emotional needs. The group emerged from their meetings with a name and a mission: Both CASEL and the term “social and emotional learning” were born.

CASEL’s goal was, and still is, to establish high-quality, evidence-based SEL as an essential part of preschool through high school education. In 1997, nine CASEL collaborators co-authored Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators, which formally defined the field of SEL. Over the following decades, a large body of research demonstrated the effectiveness of SEL for supporting students’ academic and long-term success. Demand for SEL surged among teachers, school leaders, district administrators, policymakers, parents, employers, and students themselves. Increasingly, schools, districts, and states across the country are adopting and implementing evidence-based SEL strategies to support local priorities.

Timeline of CASEL’s efforts and milestones
      • Daniel Goleman, CASEL co-founder, author of Emotional Intelligence
      • Mark T. Greenberg, Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development, Penn State University
      • Eileen R. Growald, Venture Philanthropist
      • Linda Lantieri, Director, Inner Resilience Program
      • Timothy P. Shriver, Supervisor, New Haven Public Schools
      • David J. Sluyter, Senior Advisor, Fetzer Institute
      • Roger P. Weissberg, Professor of Psychology and Education, University of Illinois at Chicago

      The identifications refer to the professional involvements of founders at the time when they met.

      • Sheldon Berman, Superintendent of Schools, Hudson, MA
      • Patricia Caesar, President and CEO, Caesar Consulting Group
      • Maurice Elias, Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University
      • Norris M. Haynes, Professor of Counseling and School Psychology, Southern Connecticut State University
      • Janice Jackson, Assistant Professor, Lynch School of Education, Boston College
      • Beverly Benson Long, Immediate Past President, World Federation for Mental Health
      • JoAnn B. Manning, Vice President of Program Implementation, Platform Learning
      • Janet Patti, Professor, Department of Curriculum and Teaching, Hunter College
      • Terry Pickeral, Executive Director, National Center for Learning and Citizenship, Education Commission of the States
      • Mary Schwab-Stone, Harris Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry, Yale Child Study Center
      • Mary Utne O’Brien, Research Professor of Psychology and Education, University of Illinois at Chicago
      • Herbert J. Walberg, Professor Emeritus, Education and Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago
      • Joseph E. Zins, Professor, College of Education, University of Cincinnati

      The identifications refer to the professional involvements of members at the time when they met.


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Today there is unprecedented momentum for an education system that fully supports students’ social, emotional, and academic learning. As the SEL movement continues to grow, the call for clear guidance, evidence-based practices, and continuous learning has never been greater. 

The good news? CASEL and our collaborators are ready to meet this moment. Decades of evidence from research and on-the-ground implementation shows there is a clear path forward. Our collaborative brings together a wide range of expertise and experience to continue driving research, guiding implementation, informing policy, and convening networks to help make SEL a reality, everywhere.

CASEL is ready to build on our history, while staying true to our core principles. We invite you to join us on our mission to make SEL an essential part of every child’s education. Together, we can create schools where all young people are connected, inspired, and ready to contribute to the world around them.

Learn more about our mission and work.

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