Cover: Social and Emotional Learning In Schools Nationally and in the Collaborating Districts Initiative

Social and Emotional Learning In Schools Nationally and in the Collaborating Districts Initiative

Selected Findings from the American Teacher Panel and American School Leader Panel Surveys

Published Jun 15, 2022

by Heather L. Schwartz, Michelle Bongard, Erin D. Bogan, Alaina E. Boyle, Duncan C. Meyers, Robert J. Jagers

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Research Questions

  1. How common are SEL implementation strategies in schools nationally, and how do they vary by school characteristics?
  2. Is there a higher level of systemic SEL implementation among CDI districts compared with demographically similar non-CDI districts? If yes, in which areas?

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) launched the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI) with the goal of supporting school districts to build their capacities to promote social and emotional learning (SEL) for all students. Twenty large, urban districts across the country participate in the CDI. Although many approaches to support SEL start in the classroom, the CDI model takes an ecological approach and addresses the district-level systems, school-level practices, and classroom-level SEL instruction as three necessary components of effective implementation and sustainability.

CASEL asked RAND researchers to explore whether the 20 school districts' participation in the CDI has resulted in more frequent implementation of SEL practices than in peer districts and to learn about SEL implementation nationally. The authors explain the CDI in greater detail and present nationally representative survey results to establish a benchmark for how common SEL strategies are in today's classrooms. Next, they explore ten indicators of schoolwide SEL implementation in CDI districts and in comparable non-CDI districts. The authors conclude with a discussion of the implications for districts nationally and, specifically, for CDI districts and CASEL.

Key Findings

  • Seventy-six percent of principals and 53 percent of teachers nationally reported that their schools used a social and emotional learning (SEL) program or SEL curriculum materials in the 2021–2022 school year.
  • The use of a formal SEL program or curricula rose by 25 percentage points or more from spring 2018 to fall 2021, according to teachers and principals.
  • Ninety-six percent of Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI) principals and 64 percent of CDI teachers reported that their schools used a SEL program or curriculum in the 2021–2022 school year.
  • Both CDI teachers and CDI principals reported more frequent use of SEL practices than their comparable non-CDI counterparts for six of the ten indicators of schoolwide SEL implementation examined. The largest differences were in the frequency of classroom-based SEL instruction.

Research conducted by

This report is based on research funded by Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). This study was undertaken by RAND Education and Labor.

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