A new RAND report reviews two Opportunity by Design (ObD) high schools in which practices for supporting students’ social and emotional learning (SEL) were implemented schoolwide and integrated into teachers’ academic instruction. The ObD initiative was launched by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to support the design and creation of a network of small, innovative high schools of choice in large urban districts in the United States. These schools provide a unique perspective on what implementation of schoolwide, integrated, explicit SEL instruction can look like when it is a core design feature from school inception. The findings may provide valuable insight for leaders of other small high schools seeking to strengthen their own focus on SEL.
Two schools participating in the ObD initiative stood out for their positive SEL implementation. Four key school-based factors facilitated integrated, schoolwide SEL practices in the two ObD schools:
- A SEL-focused school mission and clear structures provided opportunities for teachers to support students’ SEL skill development.
- Personalized learning approaches helped teachers build positive relationships with students and cultivate students’ self-awareness.
- Mastery-based learning offered teachers a structure in which they could regularly assess SEL competencies and encourage students’ growth mindset.
- Professional development offered before the school year began focused on helping teachers understand students’ experiences.