[Webinar] How are States Incorporating SEL into their ESSA Frameworks?

How States are Incorporating SEL into their ESSA Frameworks — Part Two

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides valuable funding opportunities for social and emotional learning (SEL), and states are prioritizing SEL in different ways. This week we are looking at how three states — Colorado, Kansas, and Pennsylvania — are embedding SEL into their ESSA plans.

Consider these examples as you think through ways to expand your own SEL initiatives.


The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) recently integrated SEL standards into its Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Standards. The state designed these standards with the goal of giving “depth and context to essential learning” through 21st century, school readiness, postsecondary, and workforce readiness skills.

The state’s ESSA plan continues this framework and includes SEL in a variety of ways:

  • A central goal of the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K) is to support the needs of the whole child, which includes social and emotional competencies such as 21st century skills, critical-thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, social and cultural awareness, initiative, self-direction, and character.
  • The state’s PBIS framework focuses on enhancing academic and SEL outcomes for students, and part of the plan includes a two-day workshop on Tier I systems for PBIS within an MTSS framework.
  • Social and emotional development is a part of the state’s plan to support language learners and accelerated students.
  • As part of the Start Project, which is funded by Title IV, a leadership team comprised of educators from across the state is working on recommendations around academic and SEL curricula and instructional resources.
  • CDE is considering including SEL assessments, along with measures on school climate and postsecondary workforce readiness, to meet ESSA’s requirement of an “other indicator.”

Access the CDE’s ESSA plan to learn more.


Within the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) ESSA plan, SEL is identified as one of the State Board of Education’s five key outcomes for measuring progress.

KSDE’s ESSA plan promotes the development of students’ social and emotional skills in the following ways:

  • MTSS supports, which include training, frequent data-based monitoring for instructional decision-making, and increased capacity for providing evidence-based instruction and interventions
  • School Transitions, which combine early warning systems data with content that promotes social, emotional, and behavioral competence
  • Coordination between correctional facilities, which includes regular student progress meetings that evaluate student progress using a number of indicators, including observations of social and emotional skills
  • Teacher standards: SEL is embedded in the Kansas Educator Preparation Program Standards for Professional Education. Educators are required to understand how social and emotional skills impact students’ growth and development so they can adequately foster these skills.

Access the KSDE’s ESSA plan to learn more.


Pennsylvania is one of 11 states that has developed free-standing SEL standards and is one of eight states participating in the Collaborating States Initiative led by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Participation in this program means that Pennsylvania schools are working to embed SEL within normal academic practices. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) also provides SEL resources through the state’s Standards Aligned System (SAS) Portal.

Within the state’s ESSA plan, SEL is prioritized in many areas. For instance, it is explicitly mentioned in PDE’s overarching goals: “Students need to feel safe, respected, and have their social-emotional needs met so they can learn and grow.” SEL is embedded in MTSS and PBIS frameworks, and the state’s plan includes support for interventions that address both academic and social and emotional needs. SEL also is included in career readiness supports. Part of PDE’s work with CASEL involves the development of a Career Ready Skills Toolkit which helps students develop critical SEL skills related to career readiness.

Another area that includes SEL is the state’s plan to improve school climate and culture. PDE will encourage districts receiving Title IV, Part A funds to provide students with a well-rounded educational experience that focuses on developing social and emotional competence. In fact, Title IV, Part A funds will be prioritized for data collection, policies, and programs that create safe and inclusive environments.

Access the PDE’s ESSA plan to learn more.

States are continuing to submit and receive approval of their ESSA plans. With the new ESSA guidelines, there are increased funding opportunities for SEL programs. To learn how your state is incorporating SEL into its ESSA plan, check out this interactive map for updates, helpful links, and resources. Also, access our previous post to see how Illinois, Washington, and Wisconsin are using ESSA to support SEL.

Want to learn how your state can use SEL in your ESSA implementation? Watch our webinar, How SEL fits the ESSA Requirements, with Dr. Jenny House from RedRocks Reports.

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