• Anchorage School District, the state’s largest, has been a national leader in social and emotional learning (SEL) for years, first embracing the model more than two decades ago. Since then, ASD has moved SEL from the creation of standards adopted by the school board to a core way of doing business across the district. SEL is visible in direct instruction and the infusion of SEL strategies within instruction, respectful and safe school climates, student and staff pride in the district’s diversity, the integration of adult SEL skills into staff meetings and professional development, the modeling of SEL by the superintendent and leaders, and a decision-making process that includes students and community members.

    SEL is implemented through a variety of strategies in every school. Thirty-eight schools now intentionally engage in systemic SEL implementation using the SEL staff survey and SEL school guide to implement schoolwide SEL. This includes eight comprehensive high schools (100%), six comprehensive middle schools (60%) and 23 elementary schools (33%).

    SEL in Anchorage

    Building capacity. The district has embedded SEL instructional strategies into leadership meetings and professional development sessions and modules. The SEL team is working with all departments and schools to broaden the scope of implementation. ASD is creating a Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) approach that integrates SEL curriculum and strategies with Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS). A district SEL leadership team of 30 leaders from the classroom to the superintendent guides this work.

    The district also has developed tools and professional learning that shows educators how SEL strategies align to the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching to improve the effectiveness of instruction and create a positive school experience for all students.

    Data for action. The district uses multiple sources of SEL data for reflection, action, and improvement. These include:

    • A summative School Climate and Connectedness Survey of parents, teachers, and students assesses SEL, climate, and safety.
    • The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment Mini (DESSA-Mini) is administered in 10 middle schools to better meet the SEL needs of each student.
    • The SEL Staff Survey measures the implementation of SEL at both the school and district level.

    2016 Innovation Fund Award. Description of the awarded project available here.


    2015 climate survey:

    • 88% of parents who completed the survey recommend their child’s school to others.
    • 73% of students in grades 5-12 who completed the survey recommend their school to other students.

    2014-15 DESSA:

    • Reduced the number of students demonstrating a “Need” in SEL skills by 8%.
    • Increased the number of students demonstrating “Typical” to “Strong” SEL skills by 27%.

    2015 staff survey:

    • About 80% of staff who were surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that their school had developed a “long-term plan to promote social and emotional learning”—up from 60% in 2014.
    • About 85% of staff who were surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that their school is “looking carefully at what practices, programs, and policies we have that promote social and emotional learning”—up from 68% in 2014.
    • About 97% of staff who were surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that “social and emotional skills are related to students’ academic performance”—up from 86% in 2014

    In a study conducted for CASEL, the CDI’s independent evaluator determined that, since implementation:

    • GPAs were higher in CDI implementation years compared to pre-CDI implementation years.
  • Jennifer Knutson

    Anchorage School District

    Executive Director, Professional Learning


    48,477 students

    • 42% low-income
    • 12% limited English proficiency

    78 schools,, elementary through high schools (excluding charter or special program schools)

    48,477 students

    8,500 staff, including 3,300 teachers


    “Social and emotional learning is the fabric and foundation for everything else that goes on in education and our community.” Ed Graff, former ASD superintendent

    “SEL is the way we go about our business. Relationships matter most. I see the whole world through the lens of SEL.” Brian Singleton, Principal, Begich Middle School

    Learn More.

    Interview: Partnering with Higher Education
    The Anchorage School District and the University of Alaska-Anchorage have developed a strong working relationship to improve in-service learning.

    Edutopia has produced several videos featuring SEL in classrooms and schools in Anchorage Public Schools and elsewhere. For more from Edutopia click here.