Cover: Building an Effective Social and Emotional Learning Committee in Dallas

Building an Effective Social and Emotional Learning Committee in Dallas

One of Six Case Studies of Schools and Out-of-School-Time Program Partners (Volume 2, Part 3)

Published Sep 15, 2022

by Alice Huguet, 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 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.

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." This case study explores how Dallas's Webster Elementary School and its out-of-school-time program, Thriving Minds After School, formed a SEL committee that became more effective over time, focusing on daily activities to make SEL stick.

As Webster staff began using the SEL strategies promoted by the steering committee, attendance, school climate, and student behavior improved. Staff beyond the steering committee began sharing responsibility for SEL on campus — one important goal of the committee. To be sustainable on campus, SEL needs to be embraced by a wider group than just a committee. The school adopted an inclusive house system that interviewees said succeeded in increasing students' sense of belonging and connectedness.

Key Findings

  • Staffing the SEL committee with committed leaders and SEL content experts ensured that it had the authority and the needed content knowledge to make decisions.
  • Including a district staff member on the SEL committee opened lines of communication between the school and the district.
  • Adopting simple, short SEL rituals first made implementation easier for those new to SEL.
  • Taking time as a SEL committee to strategize resulted in clear and consistent guidance to staff.
  • Documenting SEL strategies and policies in writing enabled new staff to learn and execute the SEL programming.

Research conducted by

(Volume 2, Part 3)

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