Implementing social and emotional learning (SEL) standards that are systemic, developmentally appropriate, and culturally responsive is a collaborative process. All school experiences should provide ways for students, teachers and staff to engage in SEL. Districts need to decide how SEL will affect system-wide policies and practices and develop an instructional approach.
But where do districts even start? CASEL recommends these following processes to implement SEL standards:
1. Form an SEL standards committee and review standards
Ideally you should select a member of staff who will take responsibility for developing the SEL goals and standards-writing process. It is important to ensure that this person has the time and resources to head the project and has good communication and organization skills.
Following this you will need to enlist a range of different stakeholders ranging from teachers to those who will measure the impact of the standards, all of whom have a solid understanding of SEL. Once you have a confirmed committee, arrange regular meetings to discuss the committee’s goals, roles, and responsibilities.
Within these committee meetings you should consider reviewing your district previous and current initiatives before adopting a new set of standards. Ask yourselves “How does SEL support those initiatives?” You may find that you already have existing standards that relate to SEL.
Check if your state has SEL standards on CASEL’s State Scan Scorecard Project. If so assess these standards to see if they align with your district’s SEL vision.
2. Draft and align standards based on your district’s vision
Once standards are reviewed, establish whether to create new standards, adjust state standards or keep existing standards so they meet the district needs and align the overall SEL vision. Keep in mind that the standards should link up to the CASEL’s five core competencies.
3. Share this draft amongst the district and collect feedback
Share the draft standards to different members within the school community and members who serve students outside of school such as out-of-school time staff and libraries. Not everyone will be clear on SEL so do explain this to them and the reasoning behind these standards. Face to face meetings with teachers/school leaders, students, families and community partners work best but you can also use videos or webinars to reach out for feedback. With this feedback, adjust the standards and goals showing that their input makes a difference.
4. Pilot the SEL standards before adopting the standards as district policy
Field test the SEL standards across a range of grade levels and subjects, teachers should include these standards into lesson plans. CASEL provides a resource to help teachers build practices that support SEL. Once teachers have built and implemented this within the classroom ask for their feedback. What practice worked well with the standard and which didn’t? With this you can then adjust and finalize the standards using their experiences to shape this.
Field test the SEL standards across a range of grade levels and subjects.
5. Plan to implement the standards and inform all stakeholders
You have two options with the implementation; you can either gradually implement the standards in certain schools or grade levels; or roll out on a larger scale. If your district is in the earlier stages of SEL implementation it might be best to use these standards in smaller but diverse classrooms to test these out. However, if you are using evidence based practices you could do so without needing to pilot the standards.
Inform everyone within the district about the standards, explain what they mean and how they were created. Offer support for teachers to develop SEL-integrated lesson plans through webinars and professional learning opportunities.
6. Review SEL standards periodically
Evaluate the awareness of the standards and their use through regular surveys and meetings. For example you could ask teachers “are the standards clear? Are they effective? What would you change?”. Assess how the standards are added into practices and lesson plans. With this you can make the relevant changes and update stakeholders throughout the process.
Once the SEL standards are in place, stakeholders can then reinforce this as a core part of students’ education and foster SEL throughout the classroom, school and district.