Policy Recommendations

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is gaining significant traction in federal and state policy. Members of Congress from both parties have introduced or supported pending legislation that includes social and emotional learning. The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) contains several provisions that encourage states and districts to promote SEL.

Also, the U.S. Department of Education’s recent rounds of Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation competitive grants awarded significant bonus points for applications that made SEL a key ingredient in districtwide improvement efforts. Meanwhile, more and more states are adopting PreK-12 social and emotional learning standards that outline what students should know and be able to do in terms of social and emotional competence.

Still, much more can be done. CASEL is collaborating with many partners to expand the presence of SEL in federal and state policy nationwide. Our priorities are outlined below. CASEL and other collaborators in the field of social and emotional learning—such as national foundations, prominent scholars, district superintendents, and the many high-quality SEL program providers at work in schools around the country—will provide support in the effort to advance these recommended policies.

Legislative Initiatives at the Federal Level

Bills also were introduced in 2015 that would:

  • Make sure students preparing to be teachers learn about SEL in their coursework.
  • Make research on the importance of SEL a priority at the Institute of Education Sciences.
  • Make SEL an allowable use of funds for grants made through two other higher education programs.
  • Ensure teachers and principals are trained in practices supporting the social and emotional development of students.
  • Strengthen teacher understanding and skills in evidence-based strategies for improving student academic achievement, “including through addressing the social and emotional development needs of students.”

Details here.

CASEL is collaborating with Committee for Children on legislative advocacy. Click here for details on sending a message to Congress.

Statewide PreK-12 Social and Emotional Learning Goals, Standards, and Guidelines

A growing number of states have developed and adopted social and emotional learning standards, goals, or competencies. Most have standards in place for prekindergarten and more are instituting them at the PreK-12 level.

There have been three different approaches to developing K-12 learning standards for social and emotional learning. Some states have developed free-standing, comprehensive standards or goals for social and emotional learning. Other states have developed clearly articulated standards that are focused on a particular aspect of social and emotional learning. The majority of states integrate learning goals that are relevant to social and emotional learning into other academic content areas.

Visit our State Policy and Standards page for up-to-date information about the status of SEL standards nationwide.

Going Forward

Further strengthening state and federal policies is one of the central priorities of CASEL’s strategic plan. We will continue to help develop model state standards and implementation guidelines, as well as increase federal support for SEL research and practice. Funding will help us and collaborating researchers continue to document and share what works. And incentives will provide the financial support districts need to scale up quality SEL in all aspects of their work—from setting budgets to supporting teachers.