Committee for Children Blog

2018: Where We’ve Been and Where We Stand in Social-Emotional Learning

Social-emotional learning has come far in 20 years: resource availability, SEL integration with academics and more.

social emotional learning, SEL, progress, whats new

 “We didn’t have it 20 years ago, but we do now.” “I wish we had this back then.”

These are things I find myself saying about social-emotional learning (SEL). The implementation of SEL has come so far, and I’m excited to tell you about it. These are some of the big new happenings between then and now based on my experiences with SEL over the last 20 years.

The academic-SEL connection is more understood and at the forefront of efforts.

The conversation was . . . SEL what? That takes away from academics and we need to focus on academics.

The conversation is . . . how do we integrate social, emotional and academic instruction because students need all of the above to successfully navigate life.

There are increased efforts toward integrating SEL and academics, and heightened awareness that academic, social and emotional skills are all needed for future success. It is no longer just about academic development, but instead about SEL as a foundation for academics. The focus is now more often on explicit social and emotional instruction and implementing SEL within academic instruction.

There are more funding options for SEL.

Those of us looking for funding for social and emotional supports would often find only small grants, and there were few.

The grant options for SEL are more plentiful. There are many more funders looking to support SEL efforts, and the overall funding opportunities have increased.

Looking for funding? Try these resources:

  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released a report, Supporting Social and Emotional Learning with Evidence-Based Programs, which provides information on understanding different programs and their costs, and on strategies for funding and sustaining programs and funding streams.
  • Committee for Children put together a Funding Sources for SEL resource, which includes the big picture of funding, new opportunities in funding and a funding tool. This blog post also offers answers to frequently asked questions about funding and provides more information on the landscape of funding and available resources.
    Not wanting to apply for a grant every year or two just to sustain your SEL efforts? CASEL’s roadmap to financial sustainability shows how to get there.

We know MUCH more about effective implementation and how to sustain SEL.

Social and emotional skills were often solely the role of the school counselor or school psychologist, who taught lessons in small pull out groups or classroom drop-in sessions. When the lessons were done, the SEL supports often stopped there.

There’s an increased understanding of what works in SEL. We know social and emotional supports should be provided for all students throughout the school and that all adults school-wide need to support these efforts. We also know we need more than a one-and-done, teach a lesson on Tuesdays approach. There needs to be follow-up supports and integration of SEL within daily instruction.

Implementation is not just dissemination of information or a ‘checked it off my list’ approach. It requires careful thought to many factors, and when it comes to SEL, we’ve recently seen a deeper focus on systemic implementation and on the specific tasks required to fully and effectively implement for sustainability. CASEL’s school theory of action and district theory of action reveal the ‘what works’ and ‘how-to’ of successful implementation. Also, organizations like Committee for Children that support SEL provide many implementation resources to ensure success, with implementation best practices, articles and an exclusive website to support those implementing any Second Step programs.

Resources went from sparse to abundant.

It took hours to find enough social-emotional learning resources to help with SEL implementation.

There are so many resources that if time is not set aside to review them, one may never get to them. So…set aside that time because you are guaranteed to find some amazing and helpful information.

These are a few resources to look for in the upcoming months, soon to be released:

  • The Practitioner’s Guide to Social-Emotional Competence will highlight reliable and valid tools of measurement related to SEL, guidance on how to select measures and on how the data from those tools can be used effectively. It will likely be posted on the Measuring SEL or CASEL websites before the end of 2018.
  • CASEL is in the process of updating and releasing their district planning and school planning SEL implementation rubrics, and they are anticipated soon.


For more on the new trends in SEL, see my post What’s New in Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in 2018.

Read more of Kim’s articles on the Committee for Children blog, and check out this collection of articles about SEL as it relates to restorative practices, trauma-informed practices, MTSS, and character education.