The Need & the Opportunity
Research and experience have shown that a safe, healthy, and equitable school climate that integrates the cultivation of students’ social and emotional development with academic teaching and learning correlates with higher student attendance and engagement, improved student connectedness, and better social and emotional health. These conditions also correlate with greater job satisfaction and higher retention for school staff. Given the critical role of SEL and school safety in children’s overall well-being and feelings about school, increasing numbers of policymakers, educators, and other practitioners are viewing them as another pathway for school improvement.
Through a needs-sensing process that included interviews, surveys, and small-group conversations with staff from a few SEAs and LEAs, from the comprehensive center network, and from other organizations and agencies working in these areas, the center identified a number of clear needs. The most important and urgent among them fall into five areas of focus that will guide the center and its TA plan. Each area is described below.
The field shared a need for support with infusing equity into the work of adopting SEL and school safety programs and practices, and with ensuring equity in learning environments, in access to supports, and in disciplinary practices. While the concept of education equity warrants its own focus area, equity is also at the heart of the other four focus areas.
The field needs clear connections between SEL and school safety and academic outcomes. Additionally, the field is asking for more support in the integration of SEL and school safety efforts into the everyday work of educating children, including infusing them into academic teaching and learning (including curriculum, instructional approaches, and formative assessment) and into school and classroom climates for teaching and learning.
- Alignment and Coherence
The center’s needs sensing revealed that SEL and school safety can be misaligned with other whole-child initiatives or with related goals and policies set at the state, district, and school levels.
- Data-driven Cycles of Improvement
Just as school systems commonly implement cycles of instructional improvement to support academic outcomes, educators are increasingly interested in understanding how measuring SEL, school climate, and school safety can be used in a formative way to improve the way students are served. There is a need for support with measuring SEL to support continuous improvement in the way educators serve their students.
- Sustainable Implementation
Needs sensing also illuminated a need for effective and sustainable implementation of evidence-based programs and practices. SEL and school safety programs and practices have been linked to a variety of positive short- and long-term outcomes; yet, many practitioners find that their own use of such programs or practices does not yield the kind of significant results described in the evidence base.
To learn more, please see our brief on the center’s areas of focus (PDF).
We have designed a three-tiered approach to technical assistance.
The center website, which serves as the “home” for our general tier of technical assistance, will curate tools, resources, and publications, as well as evidence-based programs and practices, intended to address the field’s most important and urgent needs.
The center will also offer tailored professional learning and networks of practice of varying intensities and in consultation with thought leading subject matter experts.
The center will work in extended partnership with 1-2 SEAs or LEAs to design and implement strategies and initiatives related to the priorities of the center.
We will disseminate what we learn together in our targeted and intensive relationships on this website, so that it is universally available.