Cover: Strengthening Students' Social and Emotional Skills

Strengthening Students' Social and Emotional Skills

Lessons from Six Case Studies of Schools and Out-of-School-Time Program Partners (Volume 2, Part 1)

Published Sep 15, 2022

by Katie Tosh, Heather L. Schwartz, Catherine H. Augustine


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Research Questions

  1. What are the benefits of school and out-of-school-time (OST) program partnerships that focus on SEL?
  2. What approaches to implementing SEL are useful?

The Wallace Foundation's Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI) is a six-year initiative that The Wallace Foundation launched in 2017 to explore whether and how children benefit when schools and their out-of-school-time programs partner to improve social and emotional learning (SEL), as well as what it takes to do this work. The six communities that participate in PSELI are Boston, Massachusetts; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Palm Beach County, Florida; Tacoma, Washington; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

According to the Collaborative for Academic and Social and Emotional Learning, SEL is "the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions."

Six case studies spotlight specific approaches to implementing SEL. This cross-cutting report briefly summarizes each case and highlights shared themes among them. Themes include implementing SEL by building adults' SEL skills before building children's SEL skills and sustaining SEL work even as staff turn over by distributing leadership.

Key Findings

  • Committed school and OST program leaders took concrete actions that laid the foundation for SEL.
  • Establishing trusting relationships was a necessary first step to building an effective school–OST program partnership.
  • SEL committees guided and supported implementation.
  • Starting with adults' own SEL skills proved central, followed by professional development about developing students' skills.
  • Short SEL rituals were often the first and most widely adopted strategy, setting the stage for formal instruction.
  • Prioritizing time for SEL in schedules was important to making implementation routine.
  • Formal SEL resources facilitated a consistent approach within and across settings.
  • Distributing ownership of SEL across staff and students increased buy-in and sustainability.

Research conducted by

This research was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

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