Promoting Equity with SEL Measurement

By Laura Davidson, Director of Research & Evaluation, Washoe County Schools and Elizabeth Breese, Panorama Education


By asking students to report their mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors related to social-emotional learning through SEL self-report surveys, districts can gain new perspective on how to promote equity in schools. 


Which student groups are reporting well below—or well above—average for social-emotional learning topics such as growth mindset, self-management, and social awareness? Are students experiencing school safety, sense of belonging, or teacher-student relationships differently based on race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status? 


To answer these questions, districts combine SEL data with the data available in their student information systems (SIS) to view trends across student groups including: 



The recent Nation at Hope report from the Aspen Institute invites us to see that focusing on SEL contributes to equity, with benefits for all students and especially for students from low-income communities and students who have experienced trauma. 


Digging into Gender and ELL Gaps at Washoe County School District


At WCSD, we look to our social-emotional assessment data on Panorama’s platform to tell us about the landscape of SEL and equity in our district. Recently, we found that there were a few gender, age, and race differences in how students responded to the survey questions, especially in areas related to emotional awareness and self-management. The data provides a great jumping off point for deeper conversations. 


Student organizers at WCSD who facilitated a conversation on SEL and gender


On a recent webinar about how CASEL districts are using SEL data, I shared that students and staff at WCSD have organized sessions to unpack the gender gaps we’ve seen in the data. The students called the session, ‘SLIME, So Like, I’m Majorly Emotional.’ They used Inside Out movie characters, technichrome slime, emojis, and other activities to help 150 other middle and high school students have conversations about gender expectations related to how we understand, acknowledge, and express our emotions. 


WCSD’s student group view in Panorama Education. This heatmap from Panorama’s platform shows the percentage deviation for students who are learning English and students who are not learning English from the overall percent favorable results. This shows that ELL students responded 7% less favorably than all students on Responsible Decision-Making and Self-Awareness of Self Concept, while ELL students responded 7% more favorably on Student Respect.


Now, through a generous grant from the NoVo Foundation EdFirst Innovation grant, our district is studying some of the differences we see in how students learning English report their SEL competencies. We see that although ELL students rate the climate at their school higher than other students, they tend to rate their social and emotional competencies much lower. A paper our larger Researcher-Practitioner Team recently wrote also uncovered some interesting response differences in our survey between Hispanic males and white females in areas of emotion management. 


We are partnering with over 100 students at three schools with large populations of students who are Hispanic and/or learning English to start exploring these differences.  We’re also gathering student recommendations about how to adjust our SEL lessons so they are more inclusive. In a district with great demographic diversity, it is critically important for us to ensure that all students are able to see themselves in the lessons we teach. The teachers in our project will be rewriting lessons using all of the student feedback we collect to ensure our SEL lessons are both more culturally inclusive and student friendly. 


By grounding these conversations in student voice data, we’re able to take real steps to promote inclusivity and equity at Washoe County School District. 


If you’re interested in exploring our district’s data, please visit, and if you’re interested in learning more about how Panorama Education partners with districts, please visit


Contact information:

Laura Davidson (

Elizabeth Breese (



Disclaimer: The Assessment Work Group is committed to enabling a rich dialogue on key issues in the field and seeking out diverse perspectives. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Assessment Work Group, CASEL or any of the organizations involved with the work group.

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