Social and emotional learning (SEL) is gaining significant traction in federal and state policy. SEL is increasingly a key consideration in federal grants. A growing number of states have developed and adopted SEL standards, goals, or competencies.

SEL in California Regulation

Policies that affect social and emotional learning can play a critical role in establishing SEL as an essential element of education. For example, several states have adopted SEL learning standards, which set an expectation and benchmarks for teaching SEL. A few states require essential teacher preparation programs to address SEL, or require demonstration of SEL competencies for teacher certification.

Although such statewide legislation regarding SEL in California tends to be weak, California recently moved in three ways to expand SEL in schools.

  • One was passage in 2016 of the statewide Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which follows a recent state trend of allowing more budgetary flexibility and parent guidance in setting local school district policies but mandates that local districts and schools give attention and funding to “climate and connectedness”  – which can be a door-opener for SEL. Under the earlier allied mandate, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), districts presumably have more flexibility in allotting statewide funds to SEL.

    Just how much citizen advocacy for SEL actually occurs on a local level, will he highly determinate in most school districts of how much funding actually goes to SEL.

  • Second, and also very positive, the state education department has moved to adopt what it calls “California One System Serving the Whole Child.”  By which it means education that includes life skills and social and emotional skills. It is very worth reading their entire posted presentation, of which the next two paragraphs are an edited (by us) more readable version of the opening section. (The other sections in the original are far more digestible if you click the California One-System link in this paragraph.)

    “The California Department of Education is committed to aligning a system of supports to better meet the needs of the whole child (from cradle to career). Within the department, we have created a One System Action Team made up of division representatives whose goal is to support – and continue to build – the basis for “whole child” support systems; also, to drive the department -wide integration of the ‘one system’ concept.

    “The Team is prioritizing internal collaboration around our initiatives, resources, and field support. The Team will also focus on building the capacity to implement proven or promising research-based programs and practices, specifically targeted at serving the whole child.”

  • Third, the other positive development is the near completion of state Social and Emotional Learning Guidelines, which themselves will need strong advocacy to be adopted at the district level.

On the negative side, these are slow-moving developments that require activism and advocacy from SEL4CA on a grassroots level if the needs of the state’s children, educators and parents are to be met sooner rather than later. By best estimates only 10% of state schools are deploying SEL with fidelity. We have a 90% long way to go.

Want to make a difference?

Check out tool kits from SEL4US for promoting and advocating for SEL in your local school, district and community.

Learn More About Local Control and Accountability Plans

The LCAP is a critical part of the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Each school district must engage parents, educators, employees and the community to establish these plans. The plans will describe the school district’s overall vision for students, annual goals and specific actions the district will take to achieve the vision and goals.

 The LCAPs must focus on eight areas identified as state priorities. The plans will also demonstrate how the district’s budget will help achieve the goals, and assess each year how well the strategies in the plan were able to improve outcomes.

There are eight areas for which school districts, with parent and community input, must establish goals and actions. This must be done both district-wide and for each school. The areas are:

  1. Providing all students access to fully credentialed teachers, instructional materials that align with state standards, and safe facilities.
  2. Implementation of California’s academic standards, including the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math, Next Generation Science Standards, English language development, history social science, visual and performing arts, health education and physical education standards.
  3. Parent involvement and participation, so the local community is engaged in the decision-making process and the educational programs of students.
  4. Improving student achievement and outcomes along multiple measures, including test scores, English proficiency and college and career preparedness.
  5. Supporting student engagement, including whether students attend school or are chronically absent.
  6. Highlighting school climate and connectedness through a variety of factors, such as suspension and expulsion rates and other locally identified means.
  7. Ensuring all students have access to classes that prepare them for college and careers, regardless of what school they attend or where they live.
  8. Measuring other important student outcomes related to required areas of study, including physical education and the arts.

In addition to these eight areas, a district may also identify and incorporate in its plan goals related to its own local priorities. When will districts start developing these plans? The State Board of Education is in the process of developing a template for school districts to use for their own local plans. This template will be finalized by March 2014.

Between March and June, school districts must engage their parents and communities and adopt their local plans. California State PTA encourages districts to utilize a broad and multi-channel approach to involve parents and school sites beginning now. Ultimately, the plan must be reviewed by a parent advisory committee.

The new LCFF and LCAPs provide a great opportunity for parents to engage in the decisions that impact their children and schools. You can start now by thinking about the eight state priority areas and what you would like to see as goals for your school district and schools in each. In addition, now is the time to communicate with school administrators and elected board members to help them establish an LCAP development and adoption process that ensures many ways for all parents and community members to participate and be heard. Ask school and district administrators to schedule presentations and participate directly in conversations about the following: The programs and services currently being offered in the district, and their effectiveness in achieving student outcomes. Strategies, programs and services to improve student outcomes at your schools and for groups of students, and the resources needed. The district’s current budget-building process, and how the district will be adapting its planning and budgeting processes to meet the new requirements of the LCFF and LCAP. Your voice matters – join the conversation.

If a district has 15 percent or more English learners, a separate parent committee must provide feedback in this area. The final plans must be approved by July 1. The initial plan will cover three years, but must be updated annually by the district by July 1 of each following year.

This article is an important as it establishes a connection between work in SEL and English Learners- one of the vulnerable populations the LCAP addresses:

For more information about SEL in policy, visit the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

Resources for Policymakers