Collaborating Districts Initiative

  • In 2011 CASEL embarked on an effort to put research into action by launching the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI) — a partnership among CASEL, the American Institutes for Research (AIR), and initially eight large school districts across the country: Anchorage, Austin, Chicago, Cleveland, Nashville, Oakland, Sacramento, and Washoe County, Nev. These districts are among the most diverse in the country, collectively educating about 1 million students a year.

    Through the CDI, CASEL is at the forefront of a movement to create sustainable and systemic reforms in school districts across the nation. The CDI is designed to achieve two complementary goals:

    • Develop districts’ capacities to plan, implement, and monitor systemic changes that will impact schools and classrooms in ways that enhance students’ social-emotional development and academic performance.
    • Document lessons learned that can inform future efforts to support systemic SEL implementation in districts across the country.

    The CDI districts are embedding SEL into their work in multiple ways, from making it central to their strategic planning to aligning and integrating SEL into all instruction.

    Making Progress

    Since implementation of the CDI, academic achievement has improved consistently in reading and math. Teachers have become more effective. Attendance and graduation rates are up. Suspensions and expulsions are down. Students feel safer and more connected to school.

    External evaluations have shown consistent year-to-year improvements in school culture and climate, as well as student outcomes. Positive impacts being seen by communities and schools in the CDI districts since partnering with CASEL include:

    • In Anchorage GPAs are higher since the CDI was implemented.
    • Austin ISD secondary schools with more SEL have higher attendance overall and less chronic absenteeism.
    • In the Chicago Public Schools district suspensions are down 65 percent in two years. This translates to 44,000 fewer students being suspended from school in one recent year alone.
    • In the Cleveland Metropolitan School District average reading and math scores and GPAs are significantly higher.
    • In the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools high-implementation schools are seeing a 23% year-to-year decrease in the Reading and Language Arts gap for limited English proficient students.
    • In the Oakland Unified School District SEL standards are now the foundation for the district’s entire system of performance frameworks for students, teachers, principals, schools, and the superintendent.
    • In the Sacramento City Unified School District suspension rates have declined up to 92% in just two years at high-implementation schools focused on restorative practices.
    • In Washoe County the graduation rate rose 20 points to 75 percent in 2015.
  • March 2017
    CDI Report

    This report summarizes key insights and finding from the Collaborating Districts Initiative. Learn more.

    AIR Research

    As part of the Collaborating Districts Initiative, the American Institutes for Research is conducting a multiyear evaluation of the districts’ work. Click here for the latest summary.


    “A student who feels better connected to a school and better connected to a classroom and learning is apt to come to school more regularly. There are two sides of education, the academic and the social-emotional. You need both to be successful.”

    Jose Banda, Superintendent,
    Sacramento City Unified School District