educator and student

Download a copy of these recommendations (PDF) here.

The exSEL Coalition advocates for greater emphasis on the social, emotional, and behavioral health of all Massachusetts students in pre-school through high school.

We are working to promote awareness about and support for social-emotional learning (SEL) in public schools across the Commonwealth. We challenge educators and policy-makers in every district, school, and classroom in Massachusetts to commit to and invest in SEL as a critical foundation for academic success.

Our recommendations are centered on the premise that this work requires schools and districts to develop and sustain ongoing partnerships with families and the community – including non-profit, faith, business, higher education, health, and social service organizations – to address the full range of our students’ academic, physical, mental, emotional, and social needs.

Specifically, we call upon State officials – most notably, the Governor, Secretary of Education, state legislators, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Secretary of Health and Human Services, and leaders of other key State agencies – to do the following:

  1. Emphasize social-emotional learning as a top priority in the state’s public education agenda, highlighting the importance of social-emotional skills and competencies as essential to our students’ academic, personal, and career success.
  1. Promote social-emotional learning as a critical issue in workforce development, working closely with employers to identify and promote the skills that employees need in order to be competitive for the jobs of the future and successful in the workplace.
  1. Enact legislation to establish inter-agency teams and other measures to promote greater collaboration and coordination between schools and the State agencies that provide vital health and social services to children, families, and schools, particularly the Department of Mental Health, Department of Public Health, Department of Youth Services, and the Department of Children & Families.
  1. Allocate new state funding streams to enable school and district leaders to invest in appropriate, targeted social-emotional learning resources, particularly staff development and training.
  1. Fully fund and enforce existing laws and regulations related to mental health services for students, including the 2008 Act Relative to Children’s Mental Health, and related legislation.
  1. Create a working group composed of representatives from DESE, higher education, public schools, and health and human service agencies to develop a plan for vertical articulation of SEL curricula and programs in pre-K through college.
  1. Integrate social-emotional learning as a key component of all major statewide initiatives related to the health and success of children and families, such as the Massachusetts Senate’s “Kids First” campaign.
  1. Explore opportunities (and eliminate barriers) for braided funding streams that would enable schools and districts to partner with community agencies to provide “wraparound” and “safety net” services that address a broad range of student needs.
  1. Create opportunities across the Commonwealth for public engagement on the role of SEL in youth development, inviting input from educators, parents, students, providers, and other community partners.
  1. Adopt a more holistic approach to fostering positive school culture and climate and promoting healthy behavior, rather than legislating and operating in a reactionary way to specific issues such as bullying, substance abuse, violence, crime, teen pregnancy, and other behaviors more likely to arise in the absence of social-emotional skills.
  1. Improve systems for early identification, treatment, and referral for students with social, emotional, or behavioral problems.
  1. Offer a range of professional development programs and activities to build skills and knowledge among educators and aspiring educators at all levels in developing students’ social and emotional health.
  1. Provide school districts with technical assistance with curriculum, instruction, and assessment related to SEL.
  1. Document, recognize, share, and help replicate existing practices across the Commonwealth and in other states that are successfully improving school climate, classroom behavior, healthy relationships, and other indicators of effective social-emotional learning.
  1. Disseminate and promote DESE’s Educator Effectiveness Guidebook for Inclusive Practice.
  1. Emphasize, beginning with early childhood education, social-emotional building blocks as a critical foundation for rigorous learning.

Moreover, the exSEL Coalition opposes any immediate effort to incorporate social-emotional learning indicators into the evaluation tools used to measure educator effectiveness. We welcome the opportunity to partner with officials from DESE and BESE to explore possible assessment of the teaching and learning of social-emotional competency, but these areas of work are not yet developed enough to modify the accountability system to include them.

See also related reports from these exSEL member organizations:

To help advance this agenda, please visit our Advocacy Toolkit page for ways you can help promote SEL in your community.