Evaluating & Selecting SEL Programs


District-wide social emotional learning programs and initiatives often have a bigger impact on students than individual efforts because they provide teachers, schools, and parents with consistent resources and a common language to support students. More than that, district-wide initiatives often have a wider impact and support the mental and emotional health of teachers, staff, and parents, which leads to happier and safer school communities.

But it takes time and thoughtful planning to identify, evaluate, and select SEL programming to support your initiatives. And without buy-in from the top-down, initiatives can easily fall flat and programs can go unused. A recent study found that a whopping 67% of educational software licenses went unused last year, so district leaders are looking for better ways to evaluate and select tools and programs that will actually be used and make an impact.

Getting Started

While school needs do change year-to-year, you should start your planning early to give your team enough time to establish your evaluation process and identify goals and the metrics you’ll use to measure success. Educators understand how important it is to plan your planning time, and that’s exactly how you should view the beginning of your process: planning your process!


Are you ready to select an SEL program for your district or school! Get in touch with our team!

Identifying Strategy Team

Who will be involved in this process?

When will decisions be made?

How will the team make decisions?

Establishing District Goals

What are you trying to accomplish?

Why is this critical work for your district?

How will you measure your success?

Gathering Your Team

Schools vary widely within a district, so ideally you can pull stakeholders and representatives from as many different schools as possible. Whether you create one district-wide team or establish school-based teams or a combination of the two, it’s important to get buy-in and input from as many different roles as possible: principals and school administrators, counselors or social workers, teachers, and parents or parent coordinators.

Too often, guidance counselors become the go-to authority for SEL (which they should be!) but a district-wide initiative means that buy-in needs to be widespread. Instead of relying on guidance counselors to both provide insights for district leaders and convince their school-based colleagues to adopt initiatives, inviting other stakeholders makes the selection process more equitable while also setting the stage for more buy-in.

This doesn’t mean that every stakeholder needs to be involved in every step of the process, but there should be opportunities along the way to gain feedback and insight from various stakeholders throughout the district.

Identifying & Evaluating Your Options 

There are a lot of resources available! A great place to start is by mining your district to find out what educators are already using? Teachers and guidance counselors may already be using relevant resources, or principals may have been eyeing a particular curriculum for a while. Compile a list of available options to begin weighing the pros and cons.

It’s important that all stakeholders understand the long-term vision for SEL in your district as they evaluate potential resources. When and how will initiatives be implemented? How will success be measured? Your team may design a rubric or rating system, invite vendors to present, or implement some type of a vote. There are a lot of ways to evaluate the SEL programs you’re interested in! Your process might include several rounds of evaluation, whittling down options from a large list to the top 3 contenders.

It can be overwhelming to evaluate and select new SEL programs, but by designing a thoughtful process and inviting various stakeholders you can select the best resources to support your educators, students, and parents.

Discover how two school districts navigated the evaluation process last year in the webinar: Evaluating & Selecting SEL Programs. You’ll hear from Heather Borges, Principal from Stratford Public Schools, and Christopher Soto, Social Emotional and Mental Health Coordinator at Durham Public Schools who will share how their districts evaluated and selected SEL programming.

Are you ready to select an SEL program? Our team is here to help. Contact us below.


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