Committee for Children Blog

How and Why Social Skills Instruction Fits With Your Strategic Plan


This blog is the second of three in my series on maximizing strategic plans for student success. Previously, in my first post of the series, I shared a review of common themes related to social-emotional learning (SEL) in strategic plans and some considerations for incorporating SEL into those plans. In this entry, I will explain why SEL is needed within strategic plans and how to incorporate it.

What Purpose Do Strategic Plans Serve for a School District?
Strategic plans guide district-wide, systemic implementation. They help set goals and priorities when there are limited resources. They build support for future funding. They also communicate organizational objectives and what’s needed to achieve them. These plans connect goals and actions to the mission—which defines why the organization exists—and the vision, which describes where the organization wants to be in the future. Most important, strategic plans are instrumental to sustaining beliefs, policies, and practices within schools and districts.

How Does SEL Fit into a Model for Student Success?
SEL is at the core of success. It provides the conditions for learning so all students are prepared to succeed both socially and academically. Whether your strategic plan’s vision and/or mission is to graduate every student, ensure all students are college- and career-ready, achieve academic success of all students, or improve school climate, social-skills instruction plays an important role. (Here’s an example.)
To achieve these outcomes, schools and districts need to prepare students by equipping them with knowledge and skills to:

  • Study effectively
  • Focus attention and listen
  • Feel confident
  • Be assertive
  • Cope with stress
  • Manage test anxiety and frustration
  • Handle making mistakes

The knowledge and skills listed above, taught in an SEL curriculum, help students:

  • Work in groups or teams effectively
  • Identify future goals
  • Make commitments
  • Deal with disappointment
  • Make good decisions
  • Form positive relationships with others

All these abilities help students engage in and benefit from learning, and all of them need to be taught, practiced, and reinforced through ongoing comprehensive social-skills instruction.
Together, strategic plans and SEL help promote safe, supportive, and successful schools. Social-skills instruction is necessary to provide students with the skills needed for behavioral and academic success in school, work, and beyond, and strategic plans drive both what’s funded and what actions are taken in schools and districts. When social-skills instruction is incorporated within strategic plans, greater emphasis is placed on these important skills. This ensures implementation is widespread and sustained because it creates a unified approach; a district commitment to staff professional learning, curriculum resources, and built-in time for teaching social skills. 

Why Is Social-Skills Instruction Vital to a Strategic Plan’s Success?
Ultimately, without social skills instruction, common strategic objectives related to student connectedness, positive social behavior, and academic achievement cannot be met. In turn, when district administrators don’t endorse use of SEL practices in schools by supporting this work through strategic planning and alignment to their mission and vision, students aren’t ensured the opportunity to learn and rehearse the skills that contribute to the positive outcomes schools and districts want to achieve.

To find out more about why and how other districts have incorporated social-skills instruction within their strategic plans, see the resources below:

Schools and Communities in Montgomery County Public School District Collaborate on a Strategic Plan 

Sacramento City Unified School District’s Integration of SEL Within the Strategic Plan

Social Emotional Learning in Action: How a Leading District Responded to the Community’s Clarion Call

The third and final post in this series will give you 10 tips district leaders can use this year. Stay tuned!