Social and Emotional Learning in 2017

By Sarah-Jane Lorenzo

More than one in three state boards of education included social and emotional learning (SEL) on their 2017 agendas, prioritizing everything from mental health to teacher preparation. While there was buzz at the outset of 2017 suggesting that some states might consider incorporating SEL within their school accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states decided to approach SEL in other ways. State boards, for example, often chose to promote holistic school support strategies to help students develop those skills.

Several studies suggest that SEL skills  boost students’ academic achievement and increase their likelihood of long-term success in life generally. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) divides SEL skills into five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. By building those competencies, students can better respond to challenges they face in school and out.

In May, New Jersey state board members adopted a resolution encouraging school districts to implement the New Jersey Social and Emotional Learning Competencies. By endorsing the standards, the New Jersey board provided guidance while maintaining flexibility: Districts do not have to implement SEL strategies but are supported if they do.

In Connecticut and Illinois, students raised SEL at state board meetings. In both states, student advisory councils encouraged board members to consider ways to support students’ social and emotional growth. In Illinois, student representatives focused particularly on social-emotional support as a means to address mental health issues in schools.

The intersection of student mental health and social-emotional support were also on board members’ minds in North Carolina and Kansas. There, boards focused on social and emotional support as a component of comprehensive mental health services.

As boards continue working to support students’ achievement and well being holistically, SEL may well remain a trending topic on their agendas. To learn more about the ways state boards have addressed students’ social and emotional growth, browse the Academic Enrichment category in the State Board Insight database.

 Sarah-Jane Lorenzo is a research consultant with NASBE. She can be contacted at