Equity Work Group

  • CASEL created the Equity Work Group (EWG) in 2016, establishing it as a professional learning community for CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI). The Professional Learning Community around Equity supports partner districts in efforts to be thoughtful and strategic in their development of effective, SEL-Equity integrated practices and policies.


    After 5 years of data collection from CDI districts around systemic implementation, it was apparent that trends of inequity seen overall across the field of education persist even with the implementation of SEL. CASEL and our partners acknowledged that a commitment to SEL must involve an understanding of Equity and a willingness of decision-makers to think about SEL through an Equity lens. Along with our district partners, we took on these essential efforts.

    Through the EWG, CASEL aspires to meaningfully impact the manner in which systemic SEL is approached, understood, and implemented by educators in the field. We believe that building deep, trusting relationships is a fundamental focus to effectively impact whole child development, and create the conditions for success in schools throughout the nation.

  • Commitment to Equity

    CASEL is firmly committed to working with practitioners, policy makers and researchers leading the way to deepen the connections between SEL and Equity. By elevating the SEL and Equity work taking place at the state, district, and school level, we hope to enhance efforts and better inform the tools and knowledge available to the field. CASEL believes that an integrated focus on SEL and Equity will strengthen both and result in more welcoming and effective schools for our adults and young people.


The aim of the Equity Work Group is to foster deep partnerships between our SEL & Equity leads and practices in our collaborating districts as a way of demonstrating that SEL & Equity are mutually dependent.

Many of CASEL’s partner districts have a district SEL lead and an Equity lead, convened biannually each year, and with webinars held between convenings. To achieve desired impacts, the Work Group is focused on producing a series of deliverables that will provide immediate impact and support to educators and the field at large, while also laying the groundwork for an ongoing and continuous review and improvement process for Equity and SEL work in districts. Documentation and frameworks will help illustrate the potential synergies between these two areas of work and provide districts with the tools, strategies, resources, and most important, the relationships needed to integrate Equity and SEL effectively.


The goal of the Equity Work Group is to position CASEL as the national leader in Equity & SEL alignment. In response to a demand for a focus on this work from our CDI partners, our charge has become facing root causes of inequity in our educational system. We will challenge systems of oppression through focused work with partner districts, researchers and other thought leaders to create 21st century learning environments ensuring success for all students and adults. This effort requires a multi-year strategic focus to result in a lasting change to the status quo.


    Facilitate, support, and influence systemic change in districts through Equity and SEL aligned policies and practices.

    Develop new tools, frameworks and resources, and refine existing ones, to support the integration of Equity and SEL.

    Build a collaborative network of Equity and SEL leaders among strategic and district partners to expand reach and impact.


  • Research Partners

    Our partners for the EWG are comprised of experts in the fields of SEL and Equity Research. With their extensive backgrounds, they offer district leads greater depth into issues impacting youth of color in educational environments, and perspectives around SEL research and opportunities for development around Equity.

    Anne Gregory
    Rutgers University

    Rob Jagers
    University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

    Eric Moore
    Minneapolis Public Schools

    Deborah Rivas-Drake
    University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

    Catherine Wong
    Boston College

  • District Spotlights

    Austin Independent School District (AISD)
    The district has established an SEL/Equity working group led by the district Cultural Proficiency Department in collaboration with two SEL Coaches, the Mindfulness Coach and SEL Parent Coach. Members of the SEL/Equity working group support Cultural Proficiency & Inclusiveness (CP&I) Cohorts 2 & 3 which consists of 70 staff focused on cultural proficiency, social justice and race Equity. CP&I Cohorts engage in a four day professional learning series and yearlong action research project. Several members of the SEL Team participated in CP&I Cohort 2 and are supporting the launch of a study of Zaretta Hammond’s Book Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain for SY 2017-18. SEL Coaches in partnership with campus teachers, mentors and principals will launch the book study September 2017. Follow thier learning in action on Twitter #AISDEquity #CPICohort2 #CPICohort3 #AISDCRT. For more information about Cultural Proficiency in Austin ISD, visit here.

    Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS)
    The district conducted an SEL/Equity professional learning series for district principals that included book studies.

    Oakland Unified School District (OUSD)
    The district refined their definition of SEL and SEL competencies to be inclusive of Equity. OUSD also has a district Office of Equity focused on providing each student with what he or she needs to achieve academically and socio-emotionally to graduate prepared for college, career, or community success. Learn more.

    Washoe County School District
    The district is a leading CDI district in providing best practices, tools, and resources in aligning Equity and SEL. The district’s mission is to promote, develop and support equitable practices and policies for a safe and inclusive school community system; additionally, (they) will provide assurance of access, representation and meaningful participation for all. An example of the district’s Equity Policy is available here.

Equity in Education Related Resources

Framing Social and Emotional Learning Among African-American Youth: Toward an Integrity-based Approach. By Rob Jagers
Download the article (2016).

Is Social-Emotional Learning Really Going to Work for Students of Color? By Dena Simmons
Download the article (2017).

The Difference Between Educational Equality, Equity, and Justice… and Why it Matters. By Joseph Levitan
Download the article (2016).

Hispanics are Forgotten in Civil Rights History. By Nicholas Dauphine
Download the article (2013).

Presentation from the Equity Work Group Meeting. By Anne Gregory
View the powerpoint (2017).

TED Talk on How Student’s of Color Confront Imposter Syndrome. By Dena Simmons
Watch the video (2015).

Equitable Classroom Practice Observation Checklist. Adapted from A Resource for Equitable Classroom Practice
View the tool (2010)