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In 2012, Kansas became the first state to integrate social, emotional and character development into a single, seamless set of standards for K–12 education.26

In 2015, SEL received a nationwide boost when ESSA’s accountability requirements (which require schools to use at least four academic indicators) included an additional indicator that will be chosen by states and that may focus on school climate or some other measure that addresses the social, emotional or behavioral success of students.

Because ESSA allows states to choose an additional indicator, there is a clear opportunity for states to help develop positive environments that engage all learners. SEL’s emphasis on self-awareness and self-management can work alongside the positive behavioral interventions and supports^ (PBIS) framework, which focuses on managing behavior and is already being used successfully in many schools.

However, because SEL programs require the use of skills that students with learning and attention issues often struggle with, schools need to provide targeted supports to help these students fully participate in SEL curricula. For example, schools should:

  • Help students with learning and attention issues understand how they learn and what kinds of assistance or accommodations^ they need to succeed
  • Guide students who may struggle with impulsivity or executive functioning issues through the process of self-reflection and help them to build social-emotional skills
  • Use Universal Design for Learning^ (UDL) to ensure all students—and especially those with learning and attention issues—have access to and can engage in SEL curricula
  • Ensure that educators using SEL curricula understand the signs of learning and attention issues and the associated struggles students with these issues face, including anxiety, feelings of low self-esteem and failure, or lack of interest in school