Key District Findings

Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI)

  • 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, additional districts have joined the the collaborative. These 20 districts are among the most diverse in the country, collectively educating about 1.6 million students a year. Learn more.

    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.

    Impact on Students and Schools

    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:

    Improved academics:

    • 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.

    Improved behavioral outcomes:

    • 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.

    Improved school environment:

    • 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 Webinart Part II

    offers guidance, resources, and more from two districts prioritizing SEL and Equity in their communities.

    Check out the recording
    Check out the powerpoint

    Support District Implementation

    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.