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5 steps to effectively implement SEL initiatives in your community

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5 steps to effectively implement SEL initiatives in your community

Awareness of the importance of social and emotional learning is beginning to be reflected in policy measures. Practitioners and policymakers alike are continually recognizing that a whole-child approach is necessary for children to be well-positioned to succeed in their academic, personal, and social development. For example, under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there are more opportunities to use federal funds for social and emotional learning interventions. Yet programs still face obstacles in finding the best ways to execute meaningful interventions that effect change in their communities.

For schools and communities interested in implementing SEL interventions, a new report offers guidance on how to do just that! The Wallace Foundation and RAND recently released “Investing in Evidence Based Social and Emotional Learning,” a companion guide to a 2017 RAND evidence review of SEL programs intended to better inform providers and policymakers on how the programs could be used under ESSA. This report builds off of that review by providing more targeted guidance about best practices for implementation. It identifies five steps that communities can take to effect change, while emphasizing the importance of taking into account local factors of equity, coherence, and capacity.

Steps for Promoting Effective Investments in SEL:

1. Identify local needs: The first step for any successful intervention implementation is to recognize the specific needs of a community--to discern the specific areas an intervention will target and any potential limiting factors. This guide offers several suggestions on how to best select a needs assessment, what data to focus on, and how to analyze and make sense of that data once it has been collected.

2. Select relevant, evidence-based interventions: Decisionmakers then need to move from data to decisions and prioritize the needs in their communities to select an SEL intervention that makes the most sense for youth, staff, and stakeholders. The report recommends important considerations to direct your focus, shares examples from the field on how to make sense of multiple data measures, and includes helpful resources for selecting relevant SEL interventions.

3. Plan for Implementation: Once a specific intervention has been identified, those involved will need to develop a plan for high-quality execution; the study recommends the creation of a logic model, which makes the connection between specific activities and targeted outcomes, and provides clear explanation and additional resources for developing your own logic model.

4. Implement: Practitioners should continually monitor implementation and track relevant data to see how well outcomes and goals are being met. The guide includes explanations of appropriate measures and gauges, and refers to helpful resources to monitor the implementation plan.

5. Examine and reflect: Providers and decisionmakers should evaluate the effectiveness of their intervention at different stages throughout implementation. This resource not only outlines effective ways to make sense of collected data, but also offers insight into best practices in sharing out results and next steps once outcomes have been interpreted. Most importantly: leaders should revisit this process of needs-assessment and examination regularly to ensure that their approaches continue to be successful and adapt to the changing needs of the communities in which they work.

Take full advantage of the guidance offered in identifying and implementing effective SEL interventions by reading the full report

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