The federal government provided the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER funds) to support school districts across the nation as they navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds can be used in a variety of ways to support student and educator well-being.
Applying federal funds toward SEL can directly impact your students’ academic outcomes, test scores, attendance rates, and more. Furthermore, incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) at the educator level enhances their understanding and capacity to teach and model SEL to students, while also developing social and emotional practices that increase their own well-being and resilience. However, budgetary constraints often pose challenges for districts when it comes to allocating resources for such services. Fortunately, ESSER funds provide a solution to this challenge by offering resources to support bringing SEL into your district.
Test Scores & Academic Outcomes
When students have an understanding of their social and emotional skills, they can leverage those skills to reach academic outcomes with fewer barriers. This allows them to perform better academically. One meta-analysis of school-based universal SEL found that there was an 11% increase in academic achievement for students that participated in SEL school programs (1). For instance, if a student is aware of their strength in relationship skills, but self-management is an area of need, they could collaborate with a peer to establish achievable deadlines. As a result, if students do encounter challenges, they now know how to leverage their strengths to address areas of need and overcome obstacles.
Regular attendance is crucial for student success. During the pandemic, districts saw record numbers of chronic absenteeism. SEL cultivates a caring school climate and culture that encourages students to come to school. This strong culture and climate also lend itself to incorporating more student voice and choice into learning. Providing students with opportunities to make learning choices, such as selecting projects and determining instructional approaches, enhances student engagement. SEL creates an environment where all students feel accepted and can thrive.
Investing in educator SEL professional development encourages teachers to grow in their own social and emotional skills and gives them the ability to fully understand the program their students are using. In a recent EdWeek Market Brief report(2), districts across the nation reported an increase in purchasing SEL for teachers for this very reason.
Using your ESSER funds to invest in educator SEL professional development has an additional benefit— teacher retention. Since the pandemic, a number of teachers and school staff have left the field, leading to growing shortage problems. Educator SEL professional development gives educators the tools to manage stress and emotional fatigue and build closer relationships with other teachers and students. All of these contribute to a healthier and happier work environment that encourages educator retention.
Transform your district by leveraging available ESSER funds to bring strength-based SEL into your school community to support students and educators.
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- Durlak, J., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A., Taylor, R., & Schellinger, K. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. Retrieved from https://casel.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/impact-enhancing-students-social-emotional-learning-meta-analysis-school-based-universal-interventions.pdf
- Cavanagh, S. (2022, December 15). Special report: What do school districts want from SEL products and programs? Market Brief. Retrieved from https://marketbrief.edweek.org/special-report/special-report-school-districts-want-sel-products-programs/
- Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER funds)