5 principles for an equitable SEL initiative

According to a recent report, fewer than one in four teachers say social-emotional learning (SEL) is implemented in their school on a programmatic, schoolwide basis.

More than two decades of research proves that SEL yields positive results for students, adults, and school communities. The pandemic and its impact on education emphasizes the need for curated, vetted SEL resources that educators can use to support the whole child–regardless of the learning environment.

Initiatives like the Social-Emotional Learning Coalition–which is created in partnership between Discovery Education, The Allstate Foundation, The National Afterschool Association, and–are working to address the needs of students and educators by improving access to resources that support the integration of SEL into core instruction. To achieve this, the Coalition follows five guiding principles, which schools and district leaders can also follow to create an SEL framework that’s both equitable and impactful. Those principles are:

Equitable access is critical.

If we want students and educators to reap the benefits of SEL, we must ensure that they’re able to access the right tools, resources, and support. According to guidance compiled by one of the leaders in the SEL space, when SEL is leveraged to promote equity, it is:

  • Relevant for all students in all schools and affirms diverse cultures and backgrounds
  • A strategy for systemic improvement, not just an intervention for at-risk students
  • Uplifts student voice and promotes agency and civic engagement
  • Supports adults in strengthening practices that promote equity
  • Engages students, families, and communities as authentic partners in social and emotional development

Common barriers to equitable SEL include poverty, exclusionary disciplinary practices, implicit bias, a lack of trauma-informed school practices, and educator burnout.

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