How States and Districts Can Use ESSA funds to Support SEL

Mounting evidence suggests that social and emotional (SEL) skills are critical to students’ success in and out of the classroom. For schools, districts and states looking to help children build these competencies, a new RAND report offers guidance on how educators can use funding streams in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to implement SEL programs.

The report, Social and Emotional Learning Interventions Under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence Review, identifies 60 SEL programs in U.S.-based, K-12 public schools that meet the evidence requirements for ESSA. It also includes a breakdown of these programs-technically known as interventions-by outcomes, school level, settings, features, etc. that practitioners can use to adapt programs to their local needs.

While the law itself does not explicitly reference SEL, the researchers found at least three possible funding streams that could support the implementation of SEL:

  • Title I, improving academic achievement for the disadvantaged;
  • Title II, preparing, training, and recruiting school leaders; and
  • Title IV, 21st Century Schools, aimed at improving educational opportunities for students.

ESSA requires three primary tiers of evidence for these funding streams, and educators can use a fourth tier to implement programs that lack empirical research but meet local needs. The 60 interventions evaluated by the research team all met requirements for Tiers I-III. Educators in elementary schools and urban communities currently have the most options for evidence-based SEL programming that meets ESSA evidence requirements.

For the full report, visit: