In 2011, CASEL launched the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI) to study whether it was possible to implement SEL systemically in large, urban districts across the United States. Systemic SEL implementation is more pervasive and complex than the introduction of a single lesson or class period. It permeates all aspects of the district from classroom instruction and school climate to staffing, professional learning, district policies, family engagement, and more.

Not only did districts demonstrate that it was possible to implement SEL systemically, but every district has deepened and expanded SEL implementation since joining the CDI. How does a district equip itself to sustain its commitment to SEL over the long term, even as the people and contexts within the district change?

To examine this question, we spoke with SEL leaders and superintendents in each district and drew from our own experiences of partnering with them. We also reviewed implementation data and available outcome data.

In this report, we’ve summarized six elements for sustaining SEL:

  • Leaders model, cultivate, and elevate a shared vision for SEL.
  • Core district priorities connect SEL to all departments and individuals so everyone is invested.
  • Schools have resources and pathways to guide SEL implementation, as well as room to innovate and customize SEL for their communities.
  • SEL informs and shapes adult learning and staff culture and climate.
  • Students, families, and communities are co-creators of the SEL vision, plans, and practices.
  • External and internal communities of practice strengthen implementation.
Learn more about the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI).  

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