Press Release

School Districts Nationwide Share Insights for Sustaining Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

New Report Shares a Decade of Learning from CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI)

November 11, 2021

CHICAGO – School district challenges such as leadership turnover or budget cuts often hinder districtwide initiatives. Despite these realities, school districts nationwide have sustained social and emotional learning (SEL) during the last decade, as members of a collaborative initiative, according to a report released today by CASEL. The new report, 2011 to 2021: 10 Years Of Social And Emotional Learning In U.S. School Districts presents six elements to sustaining SEL, based on a decade of learnings from 20 leading school districts in CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI), a wide-reaching and ambitious school improvement effort.

Ten years ago, CASEL launched the CDI to study whether it was possible to implement SEL systemically in large, urban districts across the United States. Systemic SEL implementation is more complex than any single lesson, it supports the entire district from classroom instruction and school climate to staffing, professional learning, district policies, family engagement, and more. Not only did the districts demonstrate that it was possible to implement SEL systemically, but every district has deepened and expanded SEL implementation since joining the CDI.

“As we reflect on ten years of CASEL’s CDI, we hope these success stories will provide guidance and inspiration to help districts everywhere make SEL an integral part of students’ education,” said Melissa Schlinger, CASEL Vice President of Practice and Programs. “In communities all across the nation, we’ve seen the power of SEL firsthand: helping to bolster academic achievement, improve school climate, strengthen relationships, develop equitable practices, and ultimately prepare students to achieve their goals.”

How does a school district equip itself to sustain SEL over the long term, even as the people and contexts within the district change?

  1. Leaders model, cultivate, and elevate a shared vision for SEL
  2. Core district priorities connect SEL to all departments and individuals so everyone is invested
  3. Schools have resources and pathways to guide SEL implementation, as well as room to innovate and customize SEL for their communities
  4. SEL informs and shapes adult learning and staff culture and climate
  5. Students, families, and communities are co-creators of the SEL vision, plans, and practices
  6. External and internal communities of practice strengthen implementation

“I don’t believe SEL works when it’s ‘a thing you do,’ I believe SEL works when it’s ‘a way of being,’” said Eric Gordon, Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. “Cleveland is not where we are because we did all this in the first year, and rode that for ten years. This has been a ten-to-fifteen-year journey for us and we’re not close to being the system that we could be. But we are better for it because I and we have stayed the course [on SEL] in an urgently persistent way.”

The following school districts are members of the CDI:

  • Anchorage, AK
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Austin, TX
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Dallas, TX
  • Denver, CO
  • Dupage County, IL
  • El Paso, TX
  • Guilford, NC
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Nashville, TN
  • Oakland, CA
  • Palm Beach, FL
  • Sacramento City, CA
  • Tulsa, OK
  • Warren City, OH
  • Washoe County, NV
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