Can Social-Emotional Learning be Standards-Based?

Updated: Jul 6, 2019

The following post is organized into five distinct sections, each marked by one of the following questions:

How do we know states are even interested in SEL?

How does a state even begin writing standards for Social-Emotional Learning?

With so much research developing about SEL, how can schools possible keep up?

Ok, but does the need for SEL require that it be "standards-based"?

How I begin exploring the core of a standards-based SEL Framework?


How do we know states are even interested in SEL?

Two states have developed and approved SEL standards to be utilized in classrooms. The first is Illinois and the second is Ohio. Other states have been working on developing guildelines, benchmarks, and visions for state-wide SEL frameworks but only two so far have approved and implemented grade-level SEL standards.

The Illinois Board of Education approved an initiative to address Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) which preceded the State of Illinois’ Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003.

Illinois published two sets of SEL standards - grades 1-5 and grades 6-12. These performance standards detail the skills students are expected to develop according to a particular range of grade-levels. Strategies and posters are provided to assist in the implementation of these standards in classrooms. Each "stage" of these SEL performance stages has various amounts of observable skills and expectations. These SEL standards can be found on Illinois' State Board of Education website but no official assessments or means of reporting SEL growth is available (at least not as easily as finding the standards if they do exist). According to their website:

These standards have been developed in accordance with Section 15(a) of Public Act 93-0495. This Act calls upon the Illinois State Board of Education to "develop and implement a plan to incorporate social and emotional development standards as part of the Illinois Learning Standards." The Illinois State Board of Education partners with Illinois Classrooms in Action to provide a wide variety of resources, including social emotional learning competencies organized by grade band.

Fast-forward about ten years for a visit to the state of Ohio. This state has