January Newsletter

In this issue

  • Why we need to pay attention to Sacramento this year
  • Big news of the week — and maybe of the year
  • News about SEL4CA: 2019 Events planning
  • Opportunities
  • Meaningful resources
  • New Members



Why we need to pay attention to Sacramento this year

The greater reason to monitor and engage with Sacramento this year grows out of the accumulated actions – and pressures – of the past two years. A year ago a special commission produced a set of “Guiding SEL Principles” that were strongly supported (though not mandated) by the California Department of Education (CDE) under then Superintendent  Tom Sorlakson.

It isn’t solely because of the LAUSD strike or new Governor Gavin Newsom’s just announced push for greater pre-school funding. Both are going to be major topics in the State Legislature and in its budget calculations – with a potential upside that substantially more pre-school dollars (if passed) may produce at least some additional SEL statewide implementation given that a higher percentage of pre-schools than 1-12 schools tend to adopt SEL.

In other ways, Sorlakson promoted SEL through the department’s divisions and created a website page dedicated to it:  https://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/socialemotionallearning.asp. It includes access to the SEL Guidelines and other initiatives, including an excellent SEL Resources Guide developed by some members of the special commission. It’s available at https://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/documents/selresourcesguide.pdf

Now comes new Superintendent Tony Thurmond with assertions that he wants to expand SEL adoption in the state. Apart from his election campaign statements, Thurmond steps up from his role as a respected state Assemblyman with knowledge of and allies in the Legislature. With less than three weeks on the job, Thurmond hasn’t announced any specific SEL tactics (though his staff expects them) and since the filing deadline for new bills by legislators isn’t until Feb 22, there are no bills regarding SEL for Thurmond to weigh in on this early.

For SEL advocates, including program providers, what matters is staying aware of and capitalizing on any opportunities CDE offers via its SEL page and letting Thurmond him hear from you if he doesn’t live up to campaign statements.

On the legislative front, importantly, as we shared last week in an email call-to action alert, State Senator Harry Stern (D-NW San Fernado Valley) is planning a resolution that, if approved, would declare the Legislature in support of SEL advancement – a first – and which ideally would open the door to more funding.

We call on all SEL supporters receiving this to email or call Stern’s office and allow them to use your organization or your name in their list of endorsers they want to present to the Legislature with the resolution. The Alliance is already on record as an endorser. It’s also good to email Jennifer Moreno, the SEL coordinator at the CDE and ask her to relay to Thurmond your request that he support the Stern measure. 

Stern is at senator.stern@senate.ca.gov  or call or fax either the District or Sacramento office.
District Info: (818) 876-3352 or (805) 815-3917. State Capitol: (916) 651-4027. Faxes: (916) 651-4927 or (818) 876-0802.  Jennifer Moreno can be reached at jmoreno@cde.ca.gov

The promise from a number of other legislators is that numerous SEL-advancement bills are coming, as they have the last few years with limited action on them. Some might seek to take the statewide SEL Guidelines and make at least some of them mandatory and funded.  Note that SEL practices in these bills are often couched under other concepts (eg. school safety, trauma assistance, whole child development, mental health, ending school to prison pipeline). Stern’s proposed resolution, it’s calculated, might help add traction to some of these measures. 

For our Alliance, all this means greater vigilance reporting to members the best opportunities to really make a difference this year with outreach to your own legislators and to key power figures in the Legislature and state government.

In preparing for stepped-up alerts, the Alliance has joined Action Network and will be using its communication and advocacy tools to help move SEL along in the state. Please remember that tools are useless without you. We will make it easy and fast for you to use them – but final outcomes on many of these measures may be up to our members. If you truly want to see social-emotional learning better funded and promoted in the state, it will happen much faster from you making a brief call or sending an email than if you don’t.

A few months ago, using Action Network tools and members calls and emails., our counterparts and mentors at the Massachusetts SEL Alliance got their state legislature to create an SEL Commission to advance adoption in that state. Please don’t underestimate what we can do here with similar actions precisely focused. No matter which SEL measures Thurmond puts his clout behind, or Newsom might bring about in promoting greater pre-school funding, our voices are needed to move the SEL ball down the court. 


After two years of intensive study, the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (a project of the DC-based Aspen Institute think tank) this week released its already-being-heralded findings and recommendations for moving SEL onto the national agenda. More than 200 respected educators and scientists along with youth and parent groups and policymakers put their stamp on what is a landmark comprehensive vision for why SEL should be atop the national education agenda and how  best to make this happen.

The goals and recommendations (which SEL supporters likely will find fairly predictable because so obvious) are backed up by clear and solid guidance that covers policy agendas, communications, tools to share (including videos), recommendations for parents and other practical resources. 

Good idea to check it out their helpful resources and strategic thinking for yourself at http://nationathope.org/

The overarching goal: “Transform learning settings so they are safe and supportive for all young people.”

And the other core action recommendations for educators, policy makers and SEL activists: 

  • Set a clear vision that broadens the definition of student success to prioritize the whole child.
  • Change instruction to teach students social, emotional, and cognitive skills; embed these skills in academics and school-wide practices.
  • Build adult expertise in child development.
  • Align resources and leverage partners in the community to address the whole child.
  • Forge closer connections between research and practice to generate useful, actionable information for educators.

From their website: The Commission “was created to engage and energize communities in re-envisioning learning to encompass its social, emotional, and cognitive dimensions so that all children can succeed in school, careers, and life. The Commission’s work has drawn on research and promising practices to recommend how to make all these dimensions of learning part of the fabric of every school and community. The Commission’s members are leaders from education, research, policy, business, and the military. The full Commission team includes a Council of Distinguished Scientists, a Council of Distinguished Educators, a Youth Commission, a Parent Advisory Panel, a Partners Collaborative, and a Funders Collaborative.”


For 2019 our Alliance is moving forward in a number of event areas in which we invite members to participate, either in helping the planning or taking on manageable action tasks. Let us know at info@sel4ca.org which you would like to engage with and in what capacity. Notably:

  • statewide SEL Conference (a first), ideally next Fall, featuring leading lights of the SEL movement as speakers, and innovative and relevant panels.
  • Basic trainings for administrators in the first steps and planning needed to implement comprehensive SEL in their schools.
  • Basic trainings for teachers who want to learn more about SEL and be active in promoting it in their schools.
  • Introductory trainings for parents.
  • A test-model local “Parent SEL Fair” featuring speakers, sample trainings, and resources from program providers..
  • More tabling at events put on by other organizations. (Please inform us at info@sel4cal.orgof opportunities to table you would recommend.)

OPPORTUNITIES (send yours to info@sel4ca.org)

A good argument when making the case for why universal SEL in our schools is the exceptional workplace benefits. Here’s a good article that also provides the opportunity to test your own emotional intelligence.


From Panorama:  Jan. 23 Webinar: The 5 Biggest Challenges of MTSS: How Districts Are Responding

As more schools and districts seek to implement a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), common challenges are emerging—from providing effective Tier I supports, to coordinating school-wide practices, to targeting interventions across academics, behavior, and SEL. Hear how districts are responding to the 5 biggest challenges of MTSS in a live webinar Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 11 am PST. During this professional learning opportunity, educators will share concrete strategies on what’s working in their districts to make MTSS a success. Everyone who registers will receive the recording and slides after the event.

Featured panelists:

  • Mackey Pendergrast, Superintendent of Schools, Morris School District (NJ)
  • Edward Foote, Principal, Penn Yan Central School District (NY)
  • Kelly Tschudy-Lafean, Principal, Forest Lake Public School District (MN)
  • Ryan Werb, Success Partner, Panorama Education


  • http://measuringsel.casel.org/access-assessment-guide/
  • The Assessment Guide provides several resources for practitioners to select and use measures of student SEL, including guidance on how to select an assessment and use student SEL data, a catalog of SEL assessments equipped with filters and bookmarking, and real-world accounts of how practitioners are using SEL assessments.


Marc Rosner – Founder, Circle Ways
Armando Diaz – Program Director, EduCare Foundation
Stacy Estes – Assistant Principal, Walla Walla Public Schools
Michelle Jamieson – Owner, Sierra Mindfulness
Katrina Salazar – Founder and CEO, weThink, Inc.
Kimberly Webster – Director of Service Leadership, Playworks
Greg Thiry – Environmental educator and yoga teacher
Cigdem Akbay – Fellow, Arts For LA
Madalyn Martin – Vice President – Rethink Ed/Rethink Autism
Sabrina McNally – Educational Counselor