Do you use school software in your district? School software often helps districts run more effectively and helps to increase their outcomes. While implementing new software in a district, particularly in large ones, can seem like a burden, they actually serve to facilitate day-to-day processes and help staff be more productive and efficient with their workloads.
One such area in which software can help exponentially is that of SEL. Social Emotional Learning, whether embedded into the core curriculum or implemented as additional practices, can be time-consuming and complicated to assess and monitor. Even districts with their own SEL coordinators or SEL leads may find that monitoring the social emotional development of every student in the school or district can be difficult. Easing these challenges is one reason why SEL tools are vital for districts implementing SEL. And districts across the country are agreeing - between 2020 and 2021, spending on SEL software grew approximately 45 percent and reached $765M in around 1.5 years (Tyton Partners, 2021).
Oftentimes, district leaders and other school leaders are hesitant to introduce or change their SEL software for fear of frustrating or overwhelming staff such as teachers or SEL coordinators, but choosing the right software for your district's needs will alleviate this concern. Below are three reasons why you should use SEL software and eight features you should look out for when considering a new one.
Why should school districts use SEL software?
Social Emotional Learning can be complicated to put into practice, and teachers’ work burdens are heavy enough. Using software to help those responsible for assessing and teaching SEL will help get them on board with the idea, especially if SEL is new to the district and the prospect is causing concerns among staff. SEL software can help to automate the competency assessment processes and make teacher logging quicker and more effective than if it was done on paper. SEL software can do multiple functions at once, an area where humans may struggle.
Not only this but using software to monitor SEL leaves less room for human error. Let’s face it - we all make mistakes, especially when we’re stressed or overwhelmed! It could also be that staff who do not prioritize SEL may be less likely to remember to send out assessments and log progress since they have many other responsibilities on their plate. A good SEL software will also be built to use research-backed data collection methods, meaning you can trust in the accuracy of results.
Furthermore, assessing and monitoring SEL using paper means staff is going to have to keep track of files upon files of important student data. If a district uses spreadsheets and other electronic documents, staff will have to update and maintain them manually. Using a holistic SEL software, however, means all this vital data will be stored in one safe place. The necessary staff should be given access to this software, and they will always know where and how to find it. Plus, software is a lot less easy to misplace than paper documents or delete like spreadsheets!
So, to summarize why you should consider using SEL software in your district, here are three main reasons.
- SEL software makes SEL instruction more efficient, effective, and easier on staff workloads.
- SEL software reduces room for human error.
- SEL software means vital information can’t be misplaced.
Eight features to look out for in your SEL software
But for all the benefits of using SEL software, they can often be heavy financial investments for districts. For this reason, you should only invest in the best SEL software on the market. To get more out of your investment, look out for the following features.
Solves your pain point
Whether you’re thinking about buying new tech or just assessing what you’ve got, make sure the software in question is solving a real pain point - if it isn’t, it will only drain money, time, and energy. To figure out your pain points, think hard and holistically about the specific problems your district is having. This could be student academic performance, student behavior, or teacher work burdens. If you already implement SEL and are looking to replace or bring in a new SEL software, ask your current SEL leaders and teachers about the roadblocks they face with this task. If SEL will be new in your district, ask the staff members who will be responsible for SEL implementation for the expectations they have for the software and what their main concerns for their new responsibility are. Then make sure the software you choose answers these.
Since one of the main benefits of using an SEL solution in your district is that it decreases staff work burdens over time, you don’t want the software you pick to be difficult to learn to use. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that you have to pick a lower-quality solution - you can still find great SEL software that has complex and advanced features on the backend (bringing you high-quality, more accurate insights) but is simple and intuitive for users. In fact, this is how the best SEL software operates!
Great customer support
In the same vein, your new SEL software should also come with great customer support, just in case you or your staff do have any questions about the solution. Make sure that the customer support team of your software of choice
- Are happy to help at any point of your journey, not only during onboarding
- Offer personalized support in the way of workshops and training
- Are experienced in helping districts of your size improve their SEL outcomes
Furthermore, research shows that students are more likely to experience positive outcomes when their SEL practices are supplemented with software that prioritizes teacher learning as well as student learning (EdSurge, 2020).
All districts, schools, and programs are unique. You should make sure that the software you choose offers reasonable flexibility to tailor the service or solution to what you need. This is often via a tailored price package, meaning you aren’t also paying for services or features you won’t use. This will help save your district money!
Data aggregates within the program
School districts often do not have the staff to aggregate (or disaggregate) collected data, but SEL software should be able to do this for you. For districts that do have staff who perform this role, they will be able to make better use of their time by letting their new software do this complicated task for them. When there’s no need for an already-overburdened team member to be pulling data together before processing and sharing it, this aspect of SEL implementation becomes easier and quicker.
The best SEL software solutions make it easy for users to view the collected data. They should be graphical, intuitive, and easy to read. Make sure the software you choose doesn’t overcomplicate the data viewing process. If it does, this means it won’t really be helping your staff ease their workloads. Remember, no complicated aspects of good SEL software should be on the data dashboards!
For extra teacher support, use a solution that helps teachers with SEL content, too. A good SEL solution shouldn’t just assess and monitor competency development but also work with you to actively improve them. This is often in the form of an SEL resource or content library. The best SEL resource libraries contain
- Interventions, for targeting specific competencies when students need that extra help
- Lessons, to help teachers with SEL instruction
- Self-study tasks, so that students have the content they need to grow independently
The content library you choose should also
- Be aligned with your chosen SEL framework, such as CASEL
- Be compatible with other classroom EdTech your school uses, such as Pear Deck
- Be designed by experts in SEL and/or education
- Be easy to navigate and offer personalized content recommendations
Has proven results
Finally, make sure the SEL software you choose has proven results in helping school districts. A good SEL solution company should have testimonials available on their site or social media channels, so check them out to see how they helped other districts like yours.
Download our handy checklist to make sure you're choosing the best SEL software for you!
Finding Your Place in 2021: Social Emotional Learning Takes Center Stage in K-12. (2021). Tyton Partners. Read it here.
SEL Skills Are More Vital Than Ever. Here’s How to Choose the Right Tools. (2020). EdSurge. Read it here.