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Rand Corporation Report Highlights Opportunity to Use ESSA Funding for Social and Emotional Learning

Resource October 4, 2018

A December 2017 Rand Corporation report explains how states can utilize funding provided by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to support social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL encompasses a variety of skills and competencies essential for students’ success in school and in life—qualities like perseverance, empathy, and good decision-making. As state ESSA plans have already acknowledged the importance of including SEL in early childhood education (ECE), this resource provides further guidance about how to leverage ESSA funding to do just that. Additionally, the report suggests that in thinking about evidence-based programming, policymakers and educators may want to incorporate SEL as part of overall improvement strategies.

SEL Evidence-Based Interventions

Research suggests an emphasis on SEL enhances, rather than distracts from schools’ core missions of promoting academic achievement and attainment; improves other aspects of students’ lives above and beyond the effects of academic achievement; and addresses the increased emphasis on these competencies in state standards and assessments, as well as from employers and higher education institutions. Though the evidence review focuses on explicit, free-standing SEL instruction that aims to develop specific competencies, the report also encourages consideration of alternative approaches such as teaching practices and efforts to create a schoolwide climate that foster SEL, as well as integration of SEL into academic curriculum.

After summarizing the portions of ESSA that can be used to fund SEL and the level of evidence required for each, the report identifies 60 SEL interventions that meet ESSA requirements and provides substantial supporting materials to allow readers seeking a specific intervention to identify the best-suited approach. While these 60 interventions were for K-12 students, the report includes a chapter that provides guidance on how to adapt these and other interventions based on local needs and priorities.

With this information in hand, educators have numerous options for incorporating SEL interventions into ECE programs.

The report, Social and Emotional Learning Interventions Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, is part of a series of evidence reviews that provide guidance on evidence-based interventions under ESSA across various priority topics in education. Read the full report here.

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