Launch an SEL Program in 8 Steps (And Start Today!)

A national survey shows that principals understand the importance of teaching social and emotional skills to youth, and for good reason. Social and emotional learning (SEL) helps students get ready to learn and increases student achievement through better grades, fewer behavior incidents, and higher graduation rates.

Yet, many school and district leaders don’t know how to start an SEL program. If you’re feeling stuck, here are eight things you can do to get your SEL program up and running.

  1. Identify SEL funding sources.

Like any initiative, your SEL program requires a detailed budget and sustainable funding. Check out our blog post, How to Secure Funding for Your SEL Program, to learn how to estimate program costs and get tips for securing long-term funding for your SEL program.

  1. Research and evaluate SEL programs.

Take the time to research and evaluate SEL programs and create a plan that will meet the needs of your school. Involve education stakeholders in the process to obtain feedback and gain buy-in. Start establishing goals and benchmarks so you are able to measure accountability down the road.

  1. Create an initial plan and identify pilot schools.

It’s important to do your due diligence and create a viable, sustainable plan for your program. Get assistance from your stakeholders by forming an SEL leadership team you can train to promote the program, ensure implementation fidelity, and eventually, become valuable resources for schools when you launch the full-scale program. Here are a few additional tips to consider when creating your initial plan.

  1. Launch a pilot program.

Train your pilot school staff and provide continual professional development opportunities throughout the year. Gather data and feedback on the program and make any needed adjustments. Check out our Principals’ Guide for more tips on implementation as well as overall strategies to make your program a success.

  1. Embed SEL into your district practices.

The most successful SEL programs are those that are integrated within district practices. Staff tend to be more engaged and committed to the program when they know it’s a district priority. Consider adding SEL language to your district’s strategic plan, policies, and messaging. Train all staff on SEL and include SEL support in your central office.

  1. Assess, evaluate, and plan for next year.

Choose a quality SEL assessment, like the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment, to collect data on program effectiveness. Also, meet with stakeholders to hear about challenges they face and their success stories. Use this data to make improvements to your program.

  1. Roll out a full implementation.

At this point, you’re ready to launch a wide-scale SEL program across your district. Replicate your pilot program and provide adequate training and planning time for staff. Utilize SEL assessment data to identify district-wide trends and areas of need.

  1. Continue to monitor, evaluate, and improve.

Create a sustainable SEL program by continually monitoring implementation, evaluating what is and isn’t working, and making adjustments as needed.

Administrators and educators alike believe in the importance of SEL, but many don’t know how to implement a wide-scale program in their school or district. We hope you find these tips and resources helpful as you begin to build your own SEL plan. Check out our website for even more resources, including white papers, playbooks, and blog posts, or contact our SEL experts today.