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Conditions for Thriving: State Education Leaders

Guidance to support state 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 state 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 state 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.

State education leaders embed and promote T-SEL as essential for whole child development and meeting the learning needs of California’s diverse student population to achieve their social, academic, and civic potential.

  • Support a professional learning agenda to increase embedded T-SEL throughout the education system and provide ongoing training and support for explicit, student-centered T-SEL instruction.
  • Recognize that implementation of T-SEL involves significant adjustments to standard practices in the education system, including changes to use of time and resources, diverse strength-based assessment strategies, adoption of curriculum, instructional practices aligned with learning science, and breadth and depth of learning opportunities that build critical thinking and promote student agency.

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.

State teams include members representing diverse groups from the across the state. Team members’ participation and roles are clearly defined and valued. Team 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 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 and 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.

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.

State education leaders recognize that social-emotional skills are best developed when T-SEL skills are modeled by adults and students have multiple and varied opportunities to learn and practice T-SEL skills.

  • Emphasize the role of trusting, supportive relationships in learning development and promote staffing and program structures that allow meaningful relationships to develop such that each student has a stable, supportive relationship with at least one adult in their education setting.
  • Offer guidance for vetting resources that considers cultural responsiveness, inclusion, relationship-building, and development of identity, agency, and belonging.
  • Provide guidance and support for local educational agencies (LEAs) in professional learning for systemic T-SEL integration in core content areas.

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.

State education leaders develop guidance regarding student discipline policies and practices that are grounded in relationships, are developmentally appropriate, equitably applied, and meet the needs of students.

  • Acknowledge the role of trauma in learning and behavior and seek to mitigate the effects of trauma with healing-informed practices, countering acculturative stress.
  • Acknowledge that systemic racism is present in the design of school systems and that some practices, policies, and environments may harm and retraumatize students from historically marginalized groups.
  • Support students experiencing difficulty maintaining positive behavior in school by promoting resources that are locally available, supportive of a whole-child approach, and feature systemic T-SEL.

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.

State education leaders acknowledge the importance of systemic T-SEL in creating a positive school culture and climate where students can develop talents and thrive academically.

  • Promote the use of T-SEL to create and support identity-affirming, emotionally and physically safe school and classroom climates characterized by caring, committed relationships that foster trust, belonging, and agency.
  • Encourage the use of T-SEL throughout the kindergarten through grade twelve system to provide diverse, rich, and meaningful opportunities for learning that challenge and support students with the resources necessary to develop their talents.

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.

State education leaders commit to social justice and eliminating opportunity gaps through equity-aligned, culturally-sustaining, and trauma-informed programs that reach students and school stakeholders at the state, regional, district, and school levels.

  • Demonstrate leadership, innovation, and transparency in examining practices that perpetuate systemic racism and inequities.
  • Identify gaps and provide resources for stakeholders throughout the system to shift the structure of schooling to value and cultivate the identities, cultures, lived experiences, assets, and needs of all students for healthy development, meaningful learning, and civic engagement.
  • Support curriculum that teaches contextually accurate history from diverse perspectives and incorporates equity, inclusion, and justice as a framework for learning.

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.

State education leaders work to ensure a diverse educator workforce.

  • Support programs and policies that increase the number of educators from historically marginalized groups participating across the education system.
  • Routinely examine the racial, ethnic, and linguistic demographics of state educational agency (SEA) staff as it relates to the broader communities they serve to identify gaps in expertise and representation.

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.

State education leaders engage educators, students, families, and community partners as collaborators in T-SEL implementation.

  • Use T-SEL practices in meetings, proceedings, professional learning, and stakeholder sessions to foster engagement and belonging.
  • Use T-SEL principles to create opportunities for diverse stakeholders to provide input on T-SEL implementation in educational settings.
  • Support the development and dissemination of T-SEL implementation resources that situate authentic engagement, distributed leadership, and shared decision-making.
  • Invite student voice, centering the voices of marginalized groups, to provide evaluation and suggestions for teaching, learning, and curriculum for continuous improvement processes.

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.

State education leaders activate T-SEL to engage collaboratively with staff, students, families, and community partners in redesigning systems to counteract structural biases and create pathways to promote the healing and empowerment of students impacted by racism to improve student outcomes.

  • Strive to embed T-SEL in all aspects of education, at every level and setting, in a culturally responsive manner to promote identity, belonging, and agency for all students.
  • Provide resources to assist LEAs in reviewing books and curricular materials for bias and stereotypes and replace them with positive, culturally sustaining, identity affirming, and inclusive books and materials.
  • Amplify the voices and elevate the perspectives and experiences of historically marginalized groups in professional learning and strategic work for equity initiatives.
  • Provide training and assistance for LEAs and stakeholders in developing an equity lens and adopting healing-informed initiatives.

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.

  • Support LEAs with guidance and resources for comprehensive T-SEL strategies to build capacity among all stakeholders.
  • Disseminate evidence-based practices in inclusive instruction, T-SEL implementation, and positive school climates to county offices of education (COEs) and districts.

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.

State education leaders encourage educator preparation programs and school districts to form partnerships in order to provide pathways for new teachers to enter the field prepared to integrate, model, teach and coach T-SEL.

  • Promote and support investments in state-level T-SEL professional learning opportunities, aligned to the Quality Professional Learning Standards, that build statewide capacity to support implementation of the T-SEL Competencies and Conditions for Thriving.
  • Recognize educator preparation programs as essential to developing educators who understand the harmful effects of racism on student learning and well-being, embrace anti-racist principles, and are prepared to work for social and economic justice and educational equity.
  • Solicit feedback from teachers, schools, districts, COEs and preparation programs regarding T-SEL benchmarks, resources, and policies.
  • Provide resources and training opportunities in T-SEL to all stakeholders in the educator professional learning continuum to maximize the social-emotional, academic, and civic potential of all students.

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.

State education leaders provide guidance and professional learning materials for using T-SEL principles in family engagement, such as valuing and affirming diverse identities, perspectives, and lived experiences; developing authentic relationships to facilitate a sense of belonging; activating empathy and listening with an intent to learn; inviting agency, empowerment, and leadership; using culturally responsive practices; and connecting cultural assets.

  • Communicate guidance for fostering family engagement connected to student learning in leadership and decision-making capacities and in planning and evaluation of school or district programs and services.

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.

State education leaders prioritize support for measurement of learning environments consistent with the conditions that are well documented to support positive developmental and learning (including SEL) outcomes.

  • Support this approach using the conditions documented in the Science of Learning and Development and the National Aspen Commission for Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, and the protective factors measured by the California Healthy Kids Survey.
  • Convene stakeholders from across education, health, mental health, social services, community-based youth development, expanded learning, and other human service agencies to co-create state and local policies that facilitate innovative, strength-based approaches to meet the needs of children, youth, and families, and promote healthy physical, social, and emotional development.

Subprinciple 4C. Early Learning

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

State education leaders recognize the importance of early learning environments in providing T-SEL for young children and families and collaborate to disseminate resources and training for educators serving in early learning settings.

  • Align key documents (California Preschool Learning Foundations, California Preschool Curriculum Framework, California Early Childhood Educator Competencies) with T-SEL competencies, principles, and practices.
  • Recognize the diverse needs of families and young children and understand the essential role that quality early learning experiences can have in laying the foundation for T-SEL.

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.

State education leaders build partnerships to collaborate on developing supports for student and family well-being and increased social emotional well-being and healthy development.

  • Consider new designs for service delivery to meet the needs of students and families utilizing T-SEL practices to foster relationship development, empowerment, and agency for families and providers.
  • Develop policy, curricular, and legal guidance to facilitate LEA partnership with public agencies, private enterprise, tribal organizations, and community groups to create opportunities for applied real-world, culturally-relevant, and community and place-based learning that build student agency, social capital, and educational credit.

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.

State education leaders offer a T-SEL planning template with progress monitoring tools to assist LEAs in strategic planning to align resources, strategies, and other school plans towards continuous improvement for systemic T-SEL for all students across settings.

  • Adopt policies focused on implementation of T-SEL and the use of data to drive continuous improvement plans for T-SEL.
  • Develop guidance for plans to incorporate personalized learning and competency-based education with 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.

State education leaders provide leadership for equity-focused, evidence-based improvements across the state in school climate and T-SEL competency development.

  • Collaborate with LEA leadership, educators, families, and community partners to curate or develop tools to assess and monitor conditions across the system.
Questions:   Professional Learning Innovations Office | CaliforniaSEL@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-9503
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, November 24, 2021