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Conditions for Thriving: County Education Leaders

Guidance to support county education leaders to co-create Transformative Social and Emotional Learning (T-SEL) Conditions for Thriving.

The guidance below builds upon the California Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Guiding Principles (PDF) to provide recommended practices that county education leaders can use to co-create conditions that support T-SEL development. Implemented thoughtfully and consistently, and in collaboration with others working at all levels of the education system, these practices and actions can support development of equity-focused learning environments in which children, youth, and adults have opportunities to develop and practice T-SEL skills.

In addition to the specific actions county education leaders can take, all adults working across the education system are encouraged to implement the following practices to co-create Conditions for Thriving:

  • Value positive relationships and belonging as conditions for learning and promote educational climates that are welcoming, inclusive, culturally responsive, identity affirming, and empowering for all students, staff, families, and community partners.
  • Cultivate affirming, caring relationships with families that engage them as partners in their child’s learning and create a climate that affirms the strengths, values, cultures, and lived experiences of students and families of diverse racial-ethnic identities.
  • Involve educators, students, family, and community members representative of varied gender, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds in decision-making processes. Articulate shared language for T-SEL and its direct connection to whole child development and learning.
  • Adopt culturally informed and affirming policies and that reinforce equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Use T-SEL to address bullying, racism, and disparities to cultivate advocacy and decrease adversity.
  • Demonstrate self and social awareness as it relates to the demographics of the student body and community. Notice whose perspectives and modes of communication are dominant in meetings, discussions, school processes, and events and seek out or elevate the voices of individuals from marginalized groups.
  • Model and practice T-SEL competencies with all people, in all settings, and all aspects of work to foster engagement and belonging and regularly engage in reflective practice regarding implementation and modeling of T-SEL competencies.

The California Department of Education (CDE) plans to refine this guidance as we learn more regarding how it is being used across the state. Please consider sharing feedback regarding your experiences with the California T-SEL Conditions for Thriving.

SEL Guiding Principle 1: Adopt Whole Child Development as the Goal of Education

Take a systems approach to promoting student academic, social, and emotional learning, physical well-being, and college, career, and civic life readiness. Name SEL as not a “nice to have,” but a “must have” to ensure student success in school, work, and community.

Subprinciple 1A. Systems Change

Embed and promote SEL across all education and youth development systems and structures, including but not limited to: vision statements, strategic plans, budgetary decisions, staffing, professional learning, schoolwide policies, curricular adoption criteria, instructional practices, and instructional quality assessments.

County education leaders establish T-SEL as the foundation for learning, well-being, and civic engagement for students and adults, and provide leadership, resources, and support for systemic implementation across all educational contexts.

  • Prioritize and allocate adequate funding for regional professional development, consortiums, initiatives, and events for T-SEL and whole child development that bring district leaders together to learn from and with one another.
  • Build capacity with training and technical assistance for local educational agencies (LEAs) to establish foundational supports and plans for systemic T-SEL.
  • Provide ongoing training and facilitation for critical examination of the root causes of racial and economic inequities that inhibit whole child development and learning.

Subprinciple 1B. Diverse and Inclusive Leadership Teams

Systems change is most effectively driven by bringing together educator, student, family, and community member representatives of varied gender, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Regional teams include students, staff, family, and community members representative of the various districts within the community. Family and community members’ participation is valued and roles are clearly defined. Students, staff, families, and community members have shared ownership of system components and assist in reporting out decisions and data to stakeholders.

  • Include families, students, staff, and community members representative of varied gender, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds on leadership teams and committees involved in decision-making capacities and collaboratively create agendas for meetings.
  • Include diverse family, student, staff, and community partner representation to critically examine disaggregated data with a focus on root causes of inequity, develop collaborative solutions to address bias and discrimination, and ensure that every student has access to what they need to develop their academic, social, and civic potential.
  • Incorporate diverse stakeholder input in planning, budgetary decisions, policy, curriculum adoption, initiatives, and goal-setting.

Subprinciple 1C. SEL Skills Development

Students and adults must have opportunities to practice, demonstrate, and reinforce social and emotional skills within the context of supportive relationships. Additionally, social and emotional skills instruction and integration into academic content areas contribute to a comprehensive approach.

County education leaders support all adults to practice and model T-SEL competencies with staff, students, families, community partners, and other stakeholders; promote T-SEL skill development opportunities in all programs; and provide professional development and assistance in building foundational supports and LEA plans for systemic T-SEL.

  • Offer continuous learning opportunities for adults to strengthen knowledge and increase proficiency with T-SEL competencies and build capacity for using T-SEL across educator practices, including integration of T-SEL in academic content and instruction, guidance and discipline approaches, and explicit T-SEL instruction.
  • Curate a selection of T-SEL resources for school and district use and provide training or demonstrations on how to use them.

Subprinciple 1D. Student Centered Discipline Policies and Practices

Discipline policies that are aligned with promoting social and emotional growth, as opposed to punishment and exclusion, have been shown to yield the strongest student outcomes while offering the opportunity to repair harm and build community.

County education leaders develop student discipline policies and practices that are grounded in relationships; go beyond compliance; are developmentally appropriate, instructive, and equitably applied; and meet the needs of students.

  • Court and community schools and other county or regional programs incorporate restorative practices and accompanying T-SEL skills into instructional programs.
  • Provide professional learning in T-SEL and Restorative Practice for staff, students, families, and agency partners of student-serving programs.
  • Monitor and support staff well-being and enact plans to reduce staff stress.

Subprinciple 1E. Climate and Culture

SEL and school climate are interrelated and reciprocal. A positive school climate and culture can be developed when community members are building strong social and emotional skills.

County education leaders facilitate T-SEL competencies to create positive, safe, and equity-based educational climates and cultures.

  • Provide ongoing training for educators to recognize their own biases and reflect on their identity to understand how educator identities interact with instruction, classroom management, and relationships.
  • Provide resources and support for creating emotionally-safe, culturally-sustaining, and inclusive learning communities that reflect and affirm the identities of all students.
  • Use T-SEL skills to engage in ongoing learning and reflection on the climate and culture for both students and adults and incorporate feedback for continual improvement.
  • Frame T-SEL as a lifelong developmental process that is facilitated by a growth mindset situated in a caring, responsive environment.

SEL Guiding Principle 2: Commit to Equity

All students must have opportunities to build SEL skills and receive an assets-based educational experience that is personalized, culturally relevant and responsive, and intentionally addresses racism and implicit bias. Use practices that build on the existing strengths of students, educators, families, and communities.

Subprinciple 2A. Address the Opportunity Gap

Opportunities to build SEL skills must be offered to all students and not be determined by race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language, socioeconomic status, documentation status, or ZIP code.

County education leaders commit to robust equity, social justice, and eliminating opportunity gaps through equity-aligned, culturally-sustaining, and trauma-informed programs for school communities.

  • Collaborate with community partners to provide leadership, technical support, and professional learning for LEAs around addressing the opportunity gap and promote access to T-SEL for all students.
  • Engage with LEAs, stakeholders, and community partners in critical analysis of curriculum, textbooks, digital programs, and instructional methodologies to identify materials containing racial and cultural stereotypes and bias and identify replacement materials that are inclusive and culturally sustaining.
  • Special Education and Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) use T-SEL principles to partner with LEAs and parent and community advocacy groups to provide training and support for students and families in advocacy for students with disabilities.

Subprinciple 2B. Ensure Representation

When the educator workforce is representative of, and connected to, the student body, academic, social, and emotional outcomes improve for students.

County education leaders actively recruit, hire, and retain more educators, administrators, and staff from historically marginalized groups to ensure a diverse educator workforce.

  • Create employee-referral recruiting programs and include messages about the need for a diverse educator workforce and the importance of diverse referrals.
  • Examine the racial, ethic, and linguistic demographics of staff as it relates to the broader communities they serve in order to identify gaps in expertise and representation.
  • Host dedicated recruiting events aimed at bringing educators from historically marginalized groups to the area.
  • Develop leaders from within the county-level agencies to retain, promote, and diversify upper levels of administration and management.

Subprinciple 2C. Student and Adult-Led

SEL efforts are most effective when schools are participatory and engaging and diverse student voices are included in decision-making and improvement efforts.

County education leaders engage staff, students, families, community partners, and stakeholders in decision-making to align T-SEL practice to county-level educational and service programs and plan for implementation support among LEAs.

  • Provide training and support for instructional methodologies that center student voice and develop agency and collective efficacy through sustained, in-depth and iterative inquiry, critical thinking, and collaboration on topics with real-world relevance and opportunities for influencing social change.
  • Activate student voice in planning and implementation of T-SEL practices in alternative and specialized educational programs.
  • Develop partnerships with local and regional public, private, and tribal organizations to develop opportunities and curriculum for real-world, culturally-relevant, and place-based learning.

Subprinciple 2D. Healing Informed

Educational experiences must seek to counteract the institutional and structural biases and related traumas that often drive inequitable outcomes for students.

County education leaders engage with diverse stakeholders to examine programs, practices, opportunities and initiatives for structural bias and redesign for inclusion, cultural relevance, and empowerment of marginalized student groups.

  • Offer resources, training, and assistance for LEAs in systemic T-SEL and topics such as culturally-responsive and culturally-sustaining education, trauma-informed practice, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), differentiated instruction, Restorative Practice, Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), and family engagement.
  • Sponsor equity-focused listening sessions that amplify the voices of educators, students, families, and community partners from historically marginalized groups to inform the education community about the lived experiences and impacts of the education system on the lives of these groups and how the education system can counteract structural inequities and implement inclusive, culturally-sustaining practices that help students from marginalized communities thrive.

SEL Guiding Principle 3: Build Capacity

Build the capacity of both students and adults through an intentional focus on relationship-centered learning environments and by offering research-based learning experiences that cultivate core social and emotional competencies.

Subprinciple 3A. Positive Relationships and Belonging

To cultivate resilience to adversity and build the foundation for social and emotional growth, ensure every student and adult feels that they belong, have value, and have a network of caring peers for support.

County education leaders create and maintain welcoming, inclusive, culturally responsive climates for all staff, students, families, LEAs, and community partners and respectfully consider the perspectives, experiences, strengths, and needs of stakeholders.

  • Prioritize funding and planning for positive school climates and relationship-centered learning environments that include T-SEL skill-building activities.
  • Disseminate evidence-based practices in inclusive instruction, SEL implementation, and positive school climates to districts and schools.
  • Offer ongoing training and support for evidence-based instructional methods that build student agency, identity, and belonging, such as youth action research, service learning, project-based learning, and other student-centered, inquiry-based methods.
  • Enlist student agency to initiate or co-create area-wide opportunities for students from different schools or districts to share learning, engage in communal learning, and participate in service-learning activities together.

Subprinciple 3B. Student and Adult Competencies

Identify specific, research-based social and emotional competencies to address, such as self- awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible-decision making, or related pro-social mindsets and affective skills. Ensure common definitions of competencies are used.

Subprinciple 3C. Developmental Standards

To bring intentionality to practice, identify SEL teaching and learning standards or indicators that are responsive to student strengths and needs.

Subprinciple 3D. Pre-Service Training and Ongoing Professional Learning

Schools of education and ongoing professional learning should address student social and emotional development as well as personal growth strategies, including addressing bias, among those working with children, such as educators and other adult staff.

County education leaders provide professional learning opportunities to education staff regarding T-SEL and support school partnerships with educator preparation programs to provide candidates with high quality fieldwork opportunities, induction programs, and ongoing professional development in T-SEL.

  • Provide professional learning opportunities aligned to the Quality Professional Learning Standards to support T-SEL implementation for education staff across the county.
  • Collaborate with counties statewide to collaboratively identify and support implementation of promising T-SEL practices.
  • Collaborate in district partnerships with educator preparation programs to share information countywide.
  • Invite educator preparation programs to T-SEL trainings, events, and parent outreach initiatives.
  • Share T-SEL, anti-racist resources, and professional learning opportunities with educator preparation programs that partner with their districts.

SEL Guiding Principle 4: Partner with Families and Community

Maximize the resources of the entire school community, including expanded learning opportunities, early learning and care programs, and family and community partnerships, to advance SEL and student well-being.

Subprinciple 4A. Family Engagement

Provide families with options for meaningful contributions to, and participation in, their child’s learning experience to build respectful, mutually beneficial relationships.

County education leaders approach families as valuable and equal partners in learning, provide multiple pathways for meaningful engagement, and connect cultural assets to enrich educational programs and enhance student well-being.

  • Partner with diverse families, educators, and cultural and community organizations to develop, disseminate, and offer training in culturally sustaining T-SEL to strengthen connections between schools and families.
  • Seek input from families, school representatives, districts and community partners to better understand the needs of families and communities.
  • Provide workshops and events to build capacity for family engagement held at diverse times and locations to accommodate working families.
  • Empower family and student agency by engaging T-SEL practices and collaborative problem solving in educational planning meetings.
  • Use T-SEL principles to partner with families, LEAs, and community advocacy groups to create shared understanding and partnership in student learning outcomes and provide training around evidence-based interventions and supports for students with disabilities. 

Subprinciple 4B. Expanded Learning

Establish shared goals across all youth serving settings, such as after school programs and summer learning programs, to leverage capacity and increase shared responsibility for positive student outcomes.

County education leaders support connections between the System of Support for Expanded Learning and the California System of Support to support T-SEL.

  • Support the development and implementation of a MTSS that partners with expanded learning programs to provide personalized services and supports for youth and families and includes a data-driven continuous improvement component.
  • Network with other county agencies as a nexus of collaboration to support T-SEL, and to address critical health, mental health, and other challenges.

Subprinciple 4C. Early Learning

Consider the inclusion of early learning and care programs as SEL systems are developed.

County education leaders increase coordination of local agencies that support early learning and. support their efforts to promote T-SEL in early learning programs.

  • Facilitate stakeholder meetings for community partners, LEAs, early learning programs, First Five, and local childcare and development planning councils to identify opportunities for integration of T-SEL in early learning settings.

Subprinciple 4D. Community Partnerships

Address the basic needs of students and families, including social and emotional well-being, through partnerships with community-based organizations and other local stakeholders.

County education leaders form cross-sector partnerships that efficiently integrate a comprehensive suite of services in local schools through MTSS to address the critical and positive developmental needs of children and families in the county.

  • Create partnerships to foster rich, meaningful learning opportunities for students to develop T-SEL, including hands-on, community-based projects and civic engagement opportunities that allow students to build on emergent content knowledge and apply skills in relevant contexts.
  • Develop relationships and cross-agency agreements among the county office of education, LEAs, and community partners to facilitate collaborative services for families, set policies for communication and information sharing, pathways for referrals and follow up, identify joint advocacy opportunities, and create mechanisms for reflective practice for improved collaboration and service provision.
  • Coordinate cross-training, communication, and service provision with community partners among districts or programs and track participation and data regarding the scope of student services.

SEL Guiding Principle 5: Learn and Improve

Adopt continuous improvement practices and use evidence to guide decision-making while aiming to enhance the quality of student social and emotional learning opportunities. Use data to inform improvement of instructional and school practices, not for accountability purposes.

Subprinciple 5A. Implementation Plans and Progress Monitoring

To drive high quality implementation, conduct comprehensive planning, monitor implementation, and adopt policies and practices which highlight places where additional resources or supports are most necessary.

County education leaders engage stakeholders to develop implementation and continuous improvement plans for systemic T-SEL in their education programs and provide professional learning for LEAs to plan, implement, and monitor systemic T-SEL.

  • Consider including measurable T-SEL goals in planning tools, such as the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), that focus on increasing and improving opportunities in T-SEL for all students.
  • Facilitate information sharing for systemic T-SEL implementation in community of practice sessions for LEAs.
  • Offer technical support for creating or sourcing progress monitoring implementation and opportunities for T-SEL development and student growth in T-SEL skills.
  • Provide technical assistance, just-in-time resources, and training to support LEAs in their next identified steps for implementation of T-SEL.

Subprinciple 5B. Measurement

Educators working to improve students’ social and emotional skills should track linked outcomes such as school climate and the quality and quantity of opportunities for students to learn and practice social and emotional skill building in both the school day and expanded learning settings. Educators that choose to directly assess students’ social and emotional skills should use evidence-based, improvement-focused tools.

County education leaders use disaggregated data to determine the status of T-SEL competencies development in student-serving programs, where and how opportunities to learn and practice T-SEL could be increased and improved, and provide training and technical assistance for LEAs in equity-focused evidence-based improvement.

  • Provide resources and professional learning in choosing and applying measurement tools, understanding the data, and using data to guide continuous improvement.
  • Use evidence-based, culturally responsive measures across student-serving programs to generate consistent data.
  • Examine assessment practices and policies for racism and bias regarding content, methodology, and implementation.
  • Monitor assessment data and data-based decisions in student-serving programs to determine whether outcomes are biased and access to programs and opportunities are equitably distributed.
  • Curate measurement tools to gauge adult T-SEL and the conditions supporting adult T-SEL in adult-serving programs and capacities for the purpose of continuous improvement.
Questions:   Professional Learning Innovations Office | CaliforniaSEL@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-9503
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, November 24, 2021