Long-term Sustainability: SEL Practices

By now, your district probably has adopted an approach for Social and Emotional Learning. Whether it’s a curriculum framework, an outside partner organization that comes into your schools, or a platform like Satchel Pulse SEL, your district most likely is at a point where it can say “OK, we have a plan for SEL.” Having a clear plan for how to implement and monitor progress towards your SEL goals is very important, but this plan does not ensure sustainability long-term. Research shows that change-initiatives take five years to produce meaningful results (Harvard Business Review, 2017). This means that a plan for long-term sustainability with your SEL program is crucial for meaningful progress. Listed below are three suggestions for how to plan for long-term sustainability of your SEL programming within your district.

Clear vision and plan

Adopting an SEL framework, or progress monitoring system is a first step to meeting your SEL goals. But before rolling out the new initiative, taking the time to map out a clear vision and plan for your district is just as important. Soliciting feedback from stakeholders, school members, as well as the community will help you to form a wrap-around picture of what your end goal with your SEL initiative should look like. For example, if your district’s ultimate goal is to have K-12 students be “healthier, more self-aware students and community members,” what does that mean? In your district, does that mean that in five years you will have your student community volunteer hours increase by 20%, and the out of school suspension rate decrease by 30%? Having a clear vision for your district regarding SEL outcomes will help to solidify the work. Along with a clear vision comes a clear plan for how the district will implement, and monitor the success of the initiative. Mapping out the what, when, where, why, and how are all important steps to ensure lasting success with your district’s SEL program and plan. If you are looking for a way to work on a shared SEL vision with your district, you may find CASEL's Guide for Developing a Shared Vision helpful. This resource also includes a downloadable document to use with your staff. 

 

Mapping out the what, when, why, and how are all important steps to ensure lasting success with your district’s SEL program and plan. (Tweet this)

 

Progress monitoring checkpoints

Being able to consistently measure the success of your SEL initiative is vital for its staying power. Being clear in regards to what you are measuring, how, and when along with sharing the results in a systematic way will ensure that the school community knows where it stands in relation to the goal. Data tells a story and allows for you to capture a narrative in time and see how the work is going. It allows for the opportunity to pause, reflect, and pivot if the results are not the results desired. If something is not monitored and communicated with the school community, there is a real risk of it falling down on the list of priorities, or being forgotten about. Allowing building administrators and staff to have a clear portrait of where the district and their school is in relation to the goals will continue to keep everyone anchored in the mission. By continually having new metrics of how the staff and students are doing with the SEL initiative, it keeps the progress that’s been made, and what still needs to be worked on in the forefront. Administrators will be able to share that data regularly with their staff, and staff can use that data to develop and pivot their upcoming plans to best fit the needs of their students. For example, if students are having more success in longer term interventions of 8 weeks compared with students in 6 week long interventions, an adjustment can be made for all students to have the longer intervention block.

Clear Communication 

Perhaps the most important of all these tips is the need to clearly communicate with district staff. Communicating not only the data results but also the overall status of the implementation, expectations around the initiative, as well as anything else relating to the SEL vision and plan that arises is vital to the long term sustainability of the project. It’s also important to think about communicate initial rollouts as well as the long term plan both at a district and school level. Letting the school community, and larger community know what the outcomes for the year are, as well as benchmarks along the way will ensure a clear understanding of where the district is in terms of the initiative.  If there is only communication via email one or two times a year regarding the SEL initiative, people will not ground their daily practice around it. It’s key to have an open, clear line of communication for all members of the school community and stakeholders in order to make the plan connected to the everyday happenings of the school district. You want people in your district to be aware of the status of the implementation, as well as know who to ask if they have any questions or want more information on a specific piece. Including updates in a weekly newsletter, or a “robocall” are small things that can make a big difference. Additional ways to streamline and ensure communication are having open forums either virtually or in person where the community and stakeholders can provide feedback, or ask questions. This could also be done through email surveys, social media posts, or other methods that the community is familiar with utilizing. 

Allowing building staff to have a clear portrait of where the district and their school is in relation to the goals will continue to keep everyone anchored in the mission. (Tweet this)

 

Building in long-term sustainability practices for your SEL initiatives takes time and continuous planning. In order to meet goals, the changes and plan must be sustained year after year, meeting benchmarks along the way. Positive change every year helps to achieve the longer term, larger goals. By having a plan for long-term sustainability in your district, there is a higher likelihood of meaningful change. 

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Reference:

Hill, A., Mellon, L., Laker, B., & Goddard, J. (2017, September 14). Research: How the best school leaders create enduring change. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/09/research-how-the-best-school-leaders-create-enduring-change.

https://schoolguide.casel.org/focus-area-1b/shared-vision/