Collaborating Districts Initiative

  • In 2011 CASEL embarked on an effort to put research into action by launching the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI) — a partnership among CASEL, the American Institutes for Research (AIR), and initially eight large school districts across the country: Anchorage, Austin, Chicago, Cleveland, Nashville, Oakland, Sacramento, and Washoe County, Nev. Today, Atlanta and El Paso, Tex. have also joined the the collaborative. These districts are among the most diverse in the country, collectively educating about 1 million students a year.

    Through the CDI, CASEL is at the forefront of a movement to create sustainable and systemic reforms in school districts across the nation. The CDI is designed to achieve two complementary goals:

    • Develop districts’ capacities to plan, implement, and monitor systemic changes that will impact schools and classrooms in ways that enhance students’ social-emotional development and academic performance.
    • Document lessons learned that can inform future efforts to support systemic SEL implementation in districts across the country.

    The CDI districts are embedding SEL into their work in multiple ways, from making it central to their strategic planning to aligning and integrating SEL into all instruction.

    Making Progress

    Since implementation of the CDI, academic achievement has improved consistently in reading and math. Teachers have become more effective. Attendance and graduation rates are up. Suspensions and expulsions are down. Students feel safer and more connected to school.

    External evaluations have shown consistent year-to-year improvements in school culture and climate, as well as student outcomes. Positive impacts being seen by communities and schools in the CDI districts since partnering with CASEL include:

      • Academic achievement improved. For example, the three districts that use the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (Austin, Chicago, and Cleveland) all improved their reading and math scores during the CDI implementation years.


      • In Anchorage, Austin, Chicago, Cleveland, Oakland, and Nashville, GPAs were higher at the end of the 2015 school year than before the CDI started. The improvements were particularly noticeable in Chicago, going from an average of 2.19 in the three years before the CDI to 2.65 in 2015, an increase of nearly 21%.


      • Nashville, the only district with consistent standardized tests across the CDI years, showed improvements in both ELA and math achievement.


      • Chicago’s graduation rate increased 15% during the CDI years.


      • Attendance improved in four of six districts that collected this data.


      • Suspensions declined in all five of the districts that collected this data.


      • Districts also reported that students’ social and emotional competence improved, based on student and teacher surveys.


    • School climate, as measured by district surveys in Chicago’s and Cleveland, improved during the CDI years. In Anchorage climate began an upward trajectory before the CDI and sustained that same significant and positive growth during the CDI years.
  • Equity & SEL Part II


    The webinar offers guidance, resources, and more from two districts prioritizing SEL and Equity in their communities.
    Check out the recording
    Check out the powerpoint
    CASEL’s District Resource Center

    offers field-tested guidance, tools, and resources for SEL implementation throughout a district. 

    The report summarizes key insights and findings from the CDI.
    Learn more.
    Check out the infographic.

    Click here for a multiyear evaluation of the districts’ work.

  • Voices…

    “A student who feels better connected to a school and better connected to a classroom and learning is apt to come to school more regularly. There are two sides of education, the academic and the social-emotional. You need both to be successful.”

    Jose Banda, Superintendent,
    Sacramento City Unified School District