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Student and Family Support (SFS)

Social and Emotional Learning in Massachusetts

Social and Emotional Learning News Headlines
06/15/2022 Webpage outlining mental and behavioral health supports from the Office of Student and Family Support
08/12/2021Thriving Minds: a series of learning opportunities that offer educators guidance and support on building comprehensive school mental health systems that address the holistic needs of students.
08/05/2021Promoting Student Engagement, Learning, Wellbeing and Safety — School Year 2021-2022 (Released Summer 2021)
07/02/2020 Sign-up to receive the DESE Holistic support and enrichment, SEL, health and safety newsletter and/or information about
opportunities to strengthen comprehensive school mental health efforts
07/02/2020 MA Mental and Behavioral Health COVID-19 Related Resources
06/02/2020 Comprehensive School Mental Health Learning Network
05/29/2020MA Tools for Schools COVID-19 Resources

This website is an introduction to Social and Emotional Learning in Massachusetts Public Schools. The Department commonly uses the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL's), definition of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): SEL is the process of developing students' and adults' social and emotional competencies-the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that individuals need to make successful choices. There are a range of other definitions for Social and Emotional Learning that are also viable.

Social Emotional Learning is a key part of one of the Department's five strategic priorities : Supporting social-emotional learning, health, and safety (also known as the "heart" strategy). Strengthening social and emotional competencies in students and adults also helps further all four themes in the Commissioner's Our Way Forward 2019 report to the Board: Deeper Learning for All; Holistic Support & Enrichment; Innovation & Evidence-Based Practice; and State as a Partner.

Several years ago (2016), the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) held a special meeting on Social and Emotional Learning to provide an opportunity for members to hear a number of key ideas, information, and examples from experts in research, policy, and practice, and have the opportunity to discuss the topic of SEL.

This website includes information about the following topics. For more information about any of these resources, email

SEL website sections

Examples of Department Guidance Documents, Resources, and PD

Note: To receive periodic information about updates and offerings related to holistic supports & enrichment, including efforts to help strengthen social emotional competencies, health & safety, you can sign up for the DESE newsletter: Holistic support and enrichment, SEL, health and safety.

  • Collaborating States Initiative
    This summary document provides brief highlights of the Department's efforts to support SEL during our initial few years of participation in the CSI and includes next steps.

SEL Focused Guidance Documents

  • PreK-K Standards on SEL and Approaches to Play and Learning (APL)
    These Standards were developed in June 2015 as a collaborative initiative with the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the University of Massachusetts/Boston with funding from the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant. The standards bring attention to critical areas of development and learning that positively impact student outcomes and can be used to guide efforts to strengthen curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development and family engagement.

  • Guidelines on Implementing SEL Curricula, K-12Updated November 2017
    This document contains guidelines for schools and districts on how to effectively implement social and emotional learning curricula for students in grades K-12. The information provided relates to leadership, professional development, resource coordination, instructional approaches, policies and protocols, and collaboration with families.

  • Culturally Responsive Social-Emotional Competency Development
    The Department is pleased to present the guidance and reflective tools found in this document, focused on the critical intersection between SEL and culturally responsive teaching.

  • Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources
    1st through 3rd Grade provide evidenced based and developmentally appropriate performance indicators for 1st through 3rd grade students.

SEL Related Expectations for School & District Staff

  • Professional Standards for Teachers
    The Professional Standards for Teachers (PSTs) are used by educator preparation programs in designing their teacher preparation programs and in preparing their teacher candidates. The 2015 Guidelines for Professional Standards for Teachers include a Social and Emotional Learning Indicator: Employs a variety of strategies to assist students to develop social emotional competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

  • Educator Effectiveness Teacher and School Administrator Rubrics
    Revised versions include increased alignment to SEL.

SEL Integrated into Additional Guidance Documents

Last Updated: June 17, 2022

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.