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Focus Area 3

Continuous Improvement Connections

Using Data to Continuously Improve the Promotion of SEL for Students

There are a variety of data sources that can be used to continuously improve how SEL is implemented for students.

Data Source: Evidence-Based Program Fidelity

CASEL recommends that schools implement evidence-based approaches to SEL that have a demonstrated track record for positively impacting students. Implementing these approaches with fidelity is a key factor in their success (Durlak et al., 2011). Fidelity is defined as the extent to which school staff implement an SEL program as intended by the program’s developers (Dusenbury et al, 2003).

Implementing with fidelity depends heavily on the availability of high-quality professional learning and ongoing support. If staff members do not have consistent professional learning, they may deliver the program with low fidelity and leave students with a limited experience. Monitoring evidence-based program fidelity is a way to continuously improve implementation. High levels of fidelity let the SEL team know that staff have a strong grasp on the evidence-based approach being used, and the team can look for staff who can model high quality implementation for their peers. When lower levels of fidelity are encountered, the team can identify ways to build staff capacity for implementation.

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Continuous Improvement: Evidence-Based Programs

This is an example of how the continuous improvement template can be used to create an actionable plan to support continuous improvement related to Focus Area 3. This example uses data to explore how to support teachers in implementing an evidence-based program.


Data Source: Student Social-Emotional Competence Data

Assessing student social and emotional competencies is an important part of the continuous improvement process. This information can help to identify student strengths, highlight areas where students can develop further, and guide the SEL team in identifying the type of SEL programs and strategies that could be best for the school.

When student social and emotional competencies are measured over time, the collected data can serve to gauge the impact schoolwide SEL has on students. It can also guide decisions for how the SEL team can continuously improve the approach to SEL that is being implemented by tailoring it to identified student needs.

Information about student social and emotional competence can be gathered through student surveys, student focus groups, reports from teachers, and reports from caregivers. When assessing student social-emotional competence, CASEL strongly advocates for the use of scientifically developed measures that have established reliability and validity.

SEL teams can use the resources listed below to find a social-emotional competence measure that meets their needs.

All Developmental Levels

Preschool Through Elementary Students

  • Compendium of Preschool through Elementary School Social‐Emotional Learning and Associated Assessment Measures. This compendium includes descriptions of tools to assess the SEL of preschool and elementary school students (i.e., 5‐ to 10‐year‐olds), along with aspects of the contexts in which they learn and their learning behaviors.
  • Strategies for Social and Emotional Learning: Preschool and Elementary Grade Student Learning Standards and Assessment. This brief provides information and strategies to implement and assess SEL in schools and districts. Its purpose is to (1) describe SEL student learning standards, (2) introduce a set of universal teacher-rated assessment tools that can be used to measure SEL with preschool through elementary-school children, (3) provide guidance on implementing and assessing SEL in school settings, and (4) explain how to effectively use SEL assessment tools to monitor students’ progress toward achieving SEL goals.

Middle School Students

  • Social-Emotional Learning Assessment Measures for Middle School Youth. The authors of this report evaluated 73 instruments for assessing middle school students SEL competencies and identified ten that met their criteria for inclusion in this report. In order to be recommended, assessments needed to have sound psychometric properties, be appropriate for program evaluation purposes, be accessible to schools, and not be designed to assess specific programs.

Upper-Elementary through High School-Aged Students

  • From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes. This report seeks to increase practitioner access to user-friendly, rigorous measurement tools. It reviews ten youth outcome measurement tools intended for use in after-school programs serving upper-elementary through high school-aged youth. These tools range in breadth and depth of focus and measure different skills, including many SEL competencies.

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Continuous Improvement Connection: Student Competance

This is an example of how the continuous improvement template can be used to create an actionable plan. This example explores how to use assessment data to shed light on students’ strengths and areas of improvement.


Data Source: Student Behavior Data

Student behavior data is a useful source of data for continuous improvement. For example, information about attendance can be considered a reflection of students’ engagement in school. It can be helpful in identifying grade levels or subject areas where students may be more or less engaged and where continuous improvement efforts can be focused to foster students’ connections to others.

Discipline referrals can also be a helpful data source for continuous improvement. Knowing about the type and frequency of discipline referrals can help the SEL team get a snapshot of student behavior across the school.

Reviewing discipline-related data can help identify how often referrals happen, what problem behaviors occur most frequently in the building, where and when these events occur, and whether some grade levels are involved more or less than others.

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Continuous Improvement Connection: Student Behavior

This is an example of how the continuous improvement template can be used to create an actionable plan. This example explores how to improve the response to student behavior to support social and emotional development.


Data Source: Family Partnership Data

Family partnerships are an important part of schoolwide SEL. SEL teams may be using multiple strategies to promote these partnerships, including two-way communication, inviting families to participate at school, organizing opportunities for families to learn together at the school, and sharing SEL strategies with families that can be used at home.

Information about these partnerships can be useful data for continuous improvement. For example, the extent to which families participate in these opportunities, feedback or climate surveys that families complete during the year, or information from family focus groups.

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Continuous Improvement Connection: Family Partnerships

This example explores how to improve attendance at family-oriented SEL events.


Data Source: Community Partnership Data

Schoolwide SEL is strengthened when students have opportunities to learn in their own community. Strong partnerships with community groups can help the SEL team identify enriching community-based learning opportunities for students. In other instances community partners can provide additional services for students and their families at the school. Out-of-school-time partners in particular may bring a strong community-based orientation and resources into their engagement with students.

Information about these partnerships can be useful data for continuous improvement. For example, the extent to which students participate in community-based learning opportunities is one possible data source, as is feedback from community partners about the extent to which students and families utilize their services.

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Continuous Improvement Connection: Community Partnership

This is an example of how the continuous improvement template can be used to create an actionable plan. This example explores how to improve coordination with out-of-school time activities.

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