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Student and Family Support (SFS)

Social and Emotional Learning in Massachusetts

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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 through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions…It can help all young people and adults thrive personally and academically, develop and maintain positive relationships, become lifelong learners, and contribute to a more caring, just world. There are a range of other definitions for Social and Emotional Learning that are also viable.

Holistic Supports and Enrichment: Strengthening Social Emotional Competencies, Health & Safety are goals woven throughout the Department's five core strategies and the Commissioner's Our Way Forward 2019 report. Furthermore, Cultivating Safe and Healthy Learning Environments can help facilitate social emotional learning and is included in Commissioner Riley's Fiscal Year 2023 goals .

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. More recently (September 2022) the Board heard a presentation about supporting students' mental health and wellness , which included discussion with representatives from two districts using Social Emotional Learning (SEL) & Mental Health Grant funding to support promising practices and challenges they continue to face during this school year.

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

SEL website sections

Collaborating States Initiative

Massachusetts is participating in the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL's) Collaborating States Initiative (CSI). The CSI is an inter-state partnership on the development of policies, learning standards or goals, and guidelines to support statewide implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL). This summary document provides brief highlights of the Department's efforts to support SEL during our initial years of participation in the CSI and notes that we are in process of revising the 1999 Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework .

Learning from CASEL and other participating states has helped the Department further our efforts to:

  • Engage with our stakeholders, especially our teachers, administrators, and specialized instructional support personnel (SISP);
  • Integrate SEL principles with existing policies, resources, and initiatives; and
  • Build useful, well-aligned resources.

CASEL's website has a substantial amount of information about Social and Emotional Learning, including a 2011 meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal SEL programs which showed that, compared to controls, SEL participants demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement. Additionally, 2017 meta-analysis reviewed 82 school-based, universal SEL interventions. The study found that school-based SEL interventions continue to benefit students for months and even years to come. Moreover, a Columbia University report found that every $1 invested in SEL programming produced on average an $11 return.

Massachusetts districts may find CASEL's Collaborating Districts Initiative website to be a valuable source for SEL resources.

Also Note: In June 2021, CASEL released an updated Program Guide, informed by enhanced criteria . This resource is designed for states, districts, and schools to support evidence-based, equity-focused, systemic SEL.

In July 2020, CASEL made available a resource for schools and districts, Reunite, Renew, and Thrive: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Roadmap for Reopening School . This resource can be used in combination with state guidance found on the Department's COVID-19 Information and Resources pages.

Last Updated: February 25, 2024

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

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.