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The Department has moved to 135 Santilli Highway in Everett. The Department's office and Licensure Welcome Center are open. The new location has free parking and is a short walk from the Wellington station on the MBTA's Orange Line.
Student and Family Support (SFS)

Social and Emotional Learning in Massachusetts

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Social and Emotional Learning Updates
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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

SEL Definitions and Approaches

Developing SEL Competencies — a tiered approach

Many schools have been working to implement multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) to meet students' academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs. In line with this, DESE updated its MTSS Blueprint to incorporate a tiered approach to SEL. In a tiered approach, educators provide high quality SEL instruction (free-standing as well as integrated into other subjects) and general practices that support universal SEL, to help all students develop SEL core competencies (tier one). Educators and support staff also use data to inform when additional efforts are needed, and provide (or help access) supplemental supports based on individual students' social and emotional needs and strengths (tier two). Additionally, more intensive supports are provided for individual student needs that are more urgent and/or intensive (tier three). Tier one SEL will generally occur in whole-school, whole-class settings, while tier two and three supports may be provided through targeted group instruction, embedded within a classroom setting, in individualized work with students, in counseling sessions, or in other settings as appropriate.

Similarly, a school and district-level tiered approach can be helpful for strengthening adult social-emotional leadership skills and competency development, e.g., offering professional learning and support for all adults' competency development, and more focused and intensive learning, coaching, and supports where helpful in ways that are equity-focused, and proactive as well as responsive. The role of adults is critical in numerous ways, including but not limited to modeling skills; selecting and implementing evidence-based culturally responsive practices and approaches; using competencies to build relationships and enhance supports and understanding of students, staff, and families; reflecting on biases and taking productive actions towards dismantling systemic inequities and advancing equity, including racial equity; and continually strengthening competencies that help adults be able to more effectively help students develop skills.

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Last Updated: January 18, 2024

Contact Us

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.