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 education experiences, increasing numbers of policymakers, educators, and other practitioners are recognizing them as important pathways for school improvement.
Through a needs-sensing process that included interviews, surveys, and small-group conversations with staff from SEAs and LEAs, from the national Comprehensive Center network, and from other organizations and agencies working in these areas, the center identified a number of clear needs related to SEL and school safety. 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, practitioners are asking for more support with integrating 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).
Our technical assistance at all three tiers is flexible and responsive — tailored to the nuanced needs of the SEAs and LEAs with which we work. We co-create strategies and intended outcomes to help our clients reach their goals.
Our team includes facilitators, coaches, strategic planners, and public speakers with expertise in SEL, school climate, school safety, restorative practices, trauma-informed practices, adult well-being, data use, and myriad other topics, all of which are rooted in equity. If we don’t have the expertise that you need, we will happily connect you with the right subject matter expert to support you.
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, curates tools, resources, and publications, as well as evidence-based programs and practices, intended to address the field’s most important and urgent needs. You can find the tools and resources we have published and curated here. We also share resources through our monthly e-newsletter; sign up here through our Contact form.
The center also facilitates tailored networks of practice for SEAs and LEAs, offered with consultation from thought leading subject matter experts. This year, we are offering two networks of practice:
- – Data for Truth and Action, serving SEA teams from three states
- – Adaptive and Relational Elements of Restorative Practices, serving LEAs
The center works 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.
Here are two examples of work we have done with SEAs, through our previous state collaborative on Alignment, Coherence, and Strategic Communications:
- – Delaware’s successful effort to inventory whole-child efforts across the SEA: Breaking Down Barriers, Building Relationships: Delaware’s Collaborative Approach to Inventorying Whole-Child Efforts
- – North Dakota’s successful effort to identify SEL exemplar districts through an analysis of statewide data: Preparing Students for Life Beyond the Classroom: Spotlighting Success in North Dakota: The benefits of social emotional learning (SEL) in two rural school districts