Creating Healthy Schools: Ten Key Ideas for the SEL and School Climate Community

Elizabeth Devaney and Juliette Berg

About The 10: The 10, an occasional series, offers policymakers, educators, and the general public accessible, research-based information on pressing education issues.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) and school climate are complementary and intertwined. Positive school environments with opportunities for social and emotional learning enable students and staff to develop social and emotional competence, which in turn can make school climate more positive.

So, how do schools start integrating and aligning these two important concepts? How can the two fields join to build awareness and strengthen understanding? What should happen now, and how can we plan for the future? And what key opportunities must educators seize to ensure that SEL and school climate initiatives instigate real and effective change?

These are questions the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AIR sought to answer when they convened some of the nation’s top SEL and school climate practice leaders to begin setting out how schools and communities can best support the healthy development of children and youth.

This report outlines the ten key ideas that emerged from that meeting:

  1. Focus on equity.
  2. Be systemic. Be holistic. Be practical.
  3. Create a unified message.
  4. Spread the word.
  5. Invest in professional development.
  6. Incorporate student leadership.
  7. Involve families and the community.
  8. Identify what we know and don’t know.
  9. Improve assessment.
  10. Act quickly and strategically.