Partnering with Community Organizations to Support SEL
This tool can help the SEL team identify ways to partner with community organizations toward a common goal of advancing social and emotional learning.
Leverage strategic and aligned community partnerships that ensure students receive consistent SEL supports, increase access to a broad range of community services, and expand the professional learning opportunities for SEL.
Community organizations that partner directly with schools offer students opportunities to practice the SEL skills they are learning at home, throughout the school day, and in their afterschool programming. It is important that school-community partnerships are carefully and strategically cultivated and align on a common language, strategies, and communication around SEL-related efforts and initiatives. Community organizations, in partnership with the principal and the SEL team, can foster this alignment for seamless student support.
Community partners might include:
Has the school has developed strategic and aligned community partnerships to support schoolwide SEL?
Are the school and community partners familiar with one another’s approach to SEL?
Have the school and SEL-related community partners worked to align and integrate supports where possible?
Do these partnerships lead to increased student and family access to a broad range of community services and expand the professional learning opportunities for SEL?
Schools can strategically leverage community partnerships to deepen their systemic SEL implementation. Community partnerships may create opportunities for students to:
Students who have more targeted or intensive needs, such as those who have experienced homelessness or other kinds of trauma, may also find connection, belonging, and support through structured involvement in the community. Students grow to understand that they are part of the broader, supportive community and feel connected to its improvement and success (Cohen, 2006).
To ensure regular communication and collaboration, include community partners on the school’s SEL team. SEL team meetings can then be leveraged for schools and community partners to align their work to support SEL so their efforts are not fragmented or redundant. This can include aligning expectations, shared agreements, and language used for social and emotional learning, and sharing practices that contribute to a positive environment.
Below you’ll find additional information about Key Partnership Opportunities:
Many out-of-school time (OST) providers have focused their work around social and emotional development and are increasingly prioritizing SEL. While in-school educators and OST providers may differ in their approaches to SEL, their partnership and alignment around SEL is essential (American Institutes for Research, 2015). OST providers are important partners who can bring knowledge, framing, and resources to inform SEL implementation and help ensure alignment across students’ days, both during and after school.
Alignment between school and OST partners around SEL may include using a shared language, aligning procedures and expectations, and reinforcing lessons. For example, if OST providers are using project-based learning, classroom teachers can use the same language and structures. Similarly, if peace areas are used during the school day, they can also be used during out-of-school time by employing the same routines and procedures that youth already know to follow. Tools and practices from evidence-based SEL programs can also be shared across settings. School day and OST partners can also align practices by leveraging the Three Signature Practices for SEL, which promote community building and deeper engagement. Consistency in how meetings, classroom lessons and programming are structured – beginning with a welcoming inclusion activity, facilitating engaging practices, and wrapping up the time with an optimistic closure – can be a powerful example of alignment. (See introductory video – SEL 3 Signature Practices in Out-of-School Time)
In addition, SEL presents a powerful avenue for building collaboration between school and OST partners serving the same youth. Beyond aligning practices, including OST partners on school-based SEL teams, providing combined or aligned professional learning to both school and OST partners, and looking for additional opportunities to build relationships among the staff in both settings can build strong systems for SEL that transcend the school day.
These resources were developed specifically for school communities that are looking to align SEL practices across the full day – from before school, through classes, lunch and recess, until the last student leaves after-school programming. The power of SEL multiplies when it’s aligned and consistently reinforced across settings, but this is only possible through deep collaboration between partners. In this process, you will prioritize the relationships, communication skills, and context necessary for this collaborative approach to SEL. Resources are broken down into parts to help you determine where your school community should jump in!
More information on Aligning SEL and Out-of-School Time:
Service learning can be designed to meet real needs within the community and provide students with ongoing opportunities to reflect on both the significance of their service and the skills required to meet the community’s needs (Berman, 2005). Schools can help students enhance SEL through service learning through the following efforts:
Community partners often provide supports and interventions to students for whom schoolwide and classroom supports are not enough. Often, these are part of a larger MTSS framework. These supports are provided during or after school hours, typically at no cost to the student. Some of these services can be obtained by schools through grants, but schools may need to create agreements with community partners that involve paying for services. Community partners may be able to offer: