FAQs

Eligibility and Aligning to CASEL’s Framework

/
    • To be considered for inclusion, programs must:

      • Be universal (i.e., for use with all students in a given school), and conducted in regular education settings during the school day
      • Have written documentation of their approach to promoting students’ social and emotional development, and provide a sufficient level of detail to ensure the consistency and quality of program delivery
      • Provide professional development to educators interested in implementing the program
    • We review programs designed for students enrolled in PreK-12th grade. We operationalize PreK as the year immediately prior to kindergarten. We will review evaluations that include children between 3.5-6 years of age who were enrolled in PreK at the time of the intervention.

    • No, we only review programs designed for students enrolled in PreK-12th grade.

    • No, we only review programs designed for implementation in an in-school setting and during a regularly scheduled school day. This means that we do not review programs designed for out-of-school settings (e.g., after school, summer camps), clinical settings, solely home-based settings, or other non-school contexts.

    • We review programs designed to enhance the teaching practices of teachers who teach PreK-12th grade students. To be eligible for our Program Guide, a program will still need to demonstrate student outcomes that meet CASEL’s criteria even if the program is designed to be mainly teacher-facing.

    • In our SEL Framework, we outline specific knowledge, attitudes and skills for each core competency. For example, self-management includes the ability to set personal and collective goals. Programs don’t need to include learning around all the illustrative examples given, but most SELect programs will address multiple components of each competency.

The Review Process

/
    • The program review process includes three main steps: evaluation coding, program design review, and an interview. First, submitted evaluations are independently reviewed by a team of experienced research psychologists and methodologists who then meet to resolve discrepancies and come to consensus regarding ratings of the programs’ evidence of effectiveness. Programs that pass this first stage move on to design review. During this stage, reviewers assess whether program materials (including manuals, student materials, and other resources) meet CASEL’s quality indicators for program design. CASEL also solicits and reviews training and implementation support materials. The final stage of the review process is an interview (via video call) to better understand training and implementation support, and to clarify any remaining questions about program materials the CASEL team has reviewed. You can see an overview of the program review process.

    • To begin, visit our For Providers Page, where you will find detailed information about what to gather before starting your submission, including a checklist of what needs to be included in the submission and how to submit the materials.

    • If you have applied in the past and have conducted a new, never-submitted evaluation that you believe meets our criteria, we encourage you to apply.

      We reserve the right to update our criteria prior to each portal opening. Submitters must review the current criteria before submission to ensure materials meet our criteria. Currently, CASEL does not limit the number of times an SEL program can submit new evaluation materials.

Evaluation Review and Criteria

/
    • To be considered for inclusion in the CASEL Program Guide, a program or approach must have an evaluation that meets each of four evidence criteria. These criteria involve (a) the type of research design used, (b) the setting in which the program was implemented, (c) the statistical findings, and (d) the outcomes improved in the evaluation.

    • We strongly encourage program providers to partner with an experienced educational evaluator to conduct an evaluation of your program’s impact. What Works Clearinghouse is the preeminent standard in evaluation methodology and offers many resources on how they review educational interventions.

    • No. Evaluations may not exclude sample data based on implementation factors when estimating intervention effects. We adhere to the intent-to-treat principle. The purpose of the Program Guide is to identify programs that have potential for broad dissemination, which includes consideration of how well a program can be scaled and implemented in real-world settings. Since low implementation quality could occur when aspects of a program make it less appropriate or feasible to implement, excluding low implementers from analytic sample can weaken the generalizability of findings to natural school settings.

    • Covariates or statistical controls are characteristics of the participants in an experiment (excluding the intervention) that have a demonstrated association with other variables in the model. In educational research, covariates most often are measured at the individual-level (e.g., student gender), family-level (e.g., family income), class-level (e.g., teacher years of experience), and school-level (e.g., race/ethnicity of student body). Since there is a demonstrated association between the covariate and at least one variable in the model, by including a covariate in the model you are controlling for that association so that you can better measure and understand the association between the predictor and the outcome (hence why they are also called statistical controls). Including theoretically and empirically meaningful covariates in your models can increase the accuracy of your results, as well as increase confidence that the predictor did in fact have an influence on the outcome. When possible, we encourage the inclusion of covariates in evaluation research submitted to the CASEL Program Review. Consult the literature to determine what variables are theoretically and empirically meaningful and could be included as covariates in your model.

    • The CASEL Program Guide is interested in understanding if there is a statistical difference (p < .05 or smaller) in the way the individuals (i.e., students, teachers) in the intervention group changed compared to the way the individuals in the comparison group changed, while simultaneously (statistically) considering outcome pretest. We also encourage submitters to include theoretically meaningful covariates (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender) in their models when possible. While the exact analytic techniques and statistical tests depend on characteristics of the dataset (e.g., complex modelling is not possible with smaller datasets), the most frequent tests we see among successful submissions are ANCOVAs, repeated measures ANOVAs, regressions, and multilevel models (e.g., SEM, HLM). We encourage program providers to partner with an experienced educational evaluator to conduct analyses that are appropriate for your datasets and that adequately answer the research questions posed by the CASEL Program Guide.

    • Yes, we require that each evaluation submitted has a minimum of 100 participants in the final analytic sample size, with the treatment and comparison groups roughly the same size. While a final analytic size of 100 (across both the treatment and comparison groups) is below the ESSA-required minimal sample size of 350 participants, we believe that amount can still provide statistical power to detect an effect (if present) and is feasible for most experienced educational evaluators. The basis for a minimum final sample size of 100 per evaluation followed from a review of the sample sizes of all programs currently in the Program Guide. The requirement of 100 or more participants recognizes current practice in the field and calls for an advancement to meet a minimum evaluation standard.

    • We have revised the competence definitions of the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and institutional competencies more closely take into account individuals’ lived experiences. We strongly encourage evaluators to use culturally and developmentally appropriate and relevant SEL assessments best suited to the needs of the targeted population, and that correspond to the framework being operationalized through the program, professional development, and assessments. Which outcomes to assess should be determined by diverse stakeholders who know the local needs, assets, and cultures of the community. CASEL emphasizes the importance of three foci relevant to multiple student and institutional outcomes: educational equity, a developmental perspective, and student perspectives. We encourage program providers to incorporate assessments that tap into stage-appropriate developmental tasks, as well as elevating and affirming student voice in their evaluations.

    • We welcome evaluation data gathered from diverse sources (e.g., student, teacher, peer) that speak to the social and emotional competence development of prekindergarten through 12th grade students.

      For evaluations with preschool and elementary school students, we do not have specific rules regarding who needs to report on what outcome and how that could affect outcome designation. Outcomes and reporters should be developmentally appropriate and reasonable, and we strongly encourage researchers to use reliable, validated, and high-quality assessments.

      We do, however, have criteria around reporters for several of the student outcomes if the evaluation was conducted with middle and or high school students. Changes in both cognition and school processes (e.g., layout of school, changing classes) make adolescents insightful reporters of their well-being and development. Understanding and addressing how youth think and feel about their experiences and how this contributes to social and emotional competence (SEC) is important for interventions aimed at promoting positive adjustment. The following outcome categories must be student-reported to be considered for SELect status if the evaluation was conducted with middle and or high school students: identity and agency; school climate; and school connection (e.g., belonging, engagement). If identity and agency, school climate, and school connection are not reported on by the student, they will be considered at the Promising designation. At this time, we do not have specific rules regarding who needs to report on the other student outcome categories (i.e., social behavior, problem behavior, emotional distress, academic performance, SEL skills and attitudes) and how that could affect outcome designation. Outcomes and reporters should be developmentally appropriate and reasonable. Elevating student voice is an important step in promoting equity.

    • Prior to summer 2021, both teacher-reported and youth-reported school connectedness (e.g., school belonging, engagement) were Promising outcomes. Youth-reported school connectedness has now been elevated to a SELect outcome. Teacher-reported school connectedness will remain a Promising outcome. While discrepancies between teacher-reported and student-reported academic engagement, emotional engagement, and school belonging have been documented in past research, we believe that capturing and elevating students’ perception of their school-based relationships is an important addition to the field and is in line with CASEL’s long-standing commitment to issues of equity.

    • Positive, inclusive school climates provide the learning conditions in which student and adult SEL take place. Key elements of school climate that connect with SEL include emotional and physical safety, connectedness and support, challenge and engagement, and peer and adult SECs (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2019). Moreover, school climate plays a critical role in educational equity. For instance, students of color are more apt to experience bias, harsh disciplinary practices, low expectations, and micro-aggressions that can diminish their school connectedness. Understanding and promoting positive school climate for all individuals in the school is an important step toward promoting student and adult interpersonal and intrapersonal competence.

    • Prior to summer 2021, positive changes in academic performance outcomes alone were considered a SELect outcome. Now, positive changes in academic performance outcomes alone will be considered a Promising outcome. While changes in academic performance are desirable and are often observed in high-quality SEL interventions, changes in academic performance alone do not fully capture change in students’ socio-emotional well-being in general or in the five competencies more specifically. Positive changes in academic performance outcomes observed together with significant positive changes in a SELect student outcome (i.e., declines in problematic behaviors and emotional distress, increases in positive social behaviors, identity development, and school-based relationships), will be considered SELect.

    • We do not accept attendance (or related constructs, such absence or tardy rate) because being physically present in the school building does not speak to a student’s socioemotional competencies, and for many young people this is largely outside of their control.

    • We believe that high-quality SEL programs have a positive impact on reducing problem behaviors. The CASEL Program Guide reviews and showcases programs with a demonstrated impact on reducing specific problem behaviors related to growth in students’ socioemotional competencies (e.g., reductions in fighting, bullying, academic dishonesty). Analyses with clearly operationalized behavioral outcomes give us greater confidence that the documented change is stemming from the intervention. CASEL Program Guide focuses on specific student problem behaviors as opposed to general or aggregated discipline outcomes (e.g., students with no disciplinary referrals, students with one or more disciplinary referrals). Students can incur disciplinary referrals for a wide variety of issues, including ‘behaviors’ that do not speak to their socioemotional competencies, such as dress-code violations. General or aggregated disciplinary referrals do not allow us to determine what specific behavior(s) are being influenced by the program and or to what degree those behaviors changed over time. Similarly, we do not accept discipline severity variables (e.g., detention, in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions) because, again, they do not speak to specific behaviors the student engaged in.

    • Here is the direct link to our CASEL Assessment Guide. This guide helps those who are making decisions about selecting and using measures of student SEL. Accessing the Assessment Guide is free, but Assessments may have a cost associated with that. RAND has the Education Assessment Finder. Other resources on measuring school climate and school engagement can be found here and here.

    • All programs in the CASEL Program Guide used either a randomized control trial (RCT) or pre-post quasi-experimental (QE) design in their evaluation, important qualifications for Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Tier 1 and Tier 2 designations, respectively. While we do not have requirements that are perfectly aligned with the other ESSA qualifications (i.e., minimum sample size, multi-site), CASEL documents if programs listed in the CASEL Program Guide appear to qualify for ESSA Tier 1 or Tier 2 to aid users in their decision-making process. ESSA requires that there be similarities between the evaluation setting and or samples and that of the interested purchaser. Thus, what may be Tier 1 or 2 in one school, would not qualify in another school. We strongly encourage district- and school-level staff to reach out to the individual SEL program to determine if their evaluation evidence is similar to their school demographics. For more information follow this link and this link.

Program Design Criteria, Submission, and Review

/
    • During this stage, there are a few things we are looking for including, but not limited to:

      • Are the CASEL’s 5 competencies covered comprehensively?
      • Are lessons and learning experiences S.A.F.E (sequenced, active, focused, explicit)?
        • Sequenced: Connected and coordinated activities to foster growth
        • Active: Active forms of learning to engage students in the learning process
        • Focused: A component that emphasizes developing personal and social skills
        • Explicit: Targeting specific social and emotional skills
      • Does the program engage students in their own social and emotional development by promoting intrapersonal awareness (e.g., through discussion or reflection) and providing opportunities for practicing interpersonal skills?
      • Does the program help students generalize their learning to other settings? For example, when students learn about calming down and making a plan when experiencing conflict, are there opportunities for them to think through multiple scenarios where this might be helpful in the classroom? At recess? At home?

      In addition, we review and document strategies programs use to support students and develop competencies in different settings, including classroom, school, family and community and look for notable strategies that support educational equity. You can review all program design criteria.

    • After it is determined an applicant’s submitted evaluation for a program meets CASEL’s criteria in Stage 1, program providers are asked to upload all relevant program design materials, including (but not limited to) teacher manuals, student-facing materials, and materials for connecting with families. Additionally, applicant programs are asked to submit training and implementation support materials for review.

    • Due to the critical role of program training for strong implementation, we ask programs to: (1) upload all training materials to our application system and (2) review CASEL’s definitions for features of training and implementation support and indicate which the program offers. These features include onsite training, virtual training, offsite training, train the trainer, administrator support, coaching, technical assistance, PLCs, online resource library, self-report tools for monitoring implementation, observational tools for monitoring implementation, and tools for measuring student success. A CASEL team member reviews uploaded training materials to verify the presence of each feature. We also document strategies offered during training that support educational equity, including understanding context and working with bias. A lack of sufficient training and implementation support offerings may lead to exclusion from the Program Guide.

    • CASEL reviews adult SEL strategies included in both curricular materials and through training and implementation support. Curricular review will include effective guidance for supporting adult competency development and capacity to model SE competencies and/or promoting adult well-being. Additionally, we focus on equity-related aspects of adult SEL (e.g., working with bias, exploration of one’s own identities, etc.) during training and implementation support as we believe these opportunities must be present and purposeful for educators to create equitable environments where all students thrive.

    • CASEL systematically identified developmentally appropriate strategies for middle and high school programs in the coding process. These include, but are not limited to, strategies that focus on supporting positive identity formation, positive school-based relationships, student voice and choice, and supporting young people as change agents.

    • No. CASEL takes the privacy and security of your intellectual property seriously. Your agreement with us regarding any materials submitted is captured in our Terms and Conditions statement at the beginning of your application. Submitted materials will be stored in our secure archives and will not be shared with anyone external to CASEL under any circumstance.

    • For lesson-based programs, PreK and elementary programs must offer at least three unique, sequenced, and consecutive grade-level curricula to qualify for SELect. If a program offers one or two grade-banded curricula (e.g., one curriculum for grades K-2 and one curriculum for grades 3-4), it still qualifies for inclusion to the Program Guide but may receive a Promising designation. PreK and elementary programs with grade-banded curricula can still qualify for SELect if there are detailed instructions for sequencing the program over multiple years.

      Lesson-based middle school and high school programs with grade-banded curricula can still qualify for SELect, provided there is an additional, required component of the program where SEL is applied and practiced. Additional programmatic components that might meet this criterion include structured one-on-one or small-group mentoring, service-learning projects, or academically integrated project-based learning.

      Teaching practices or organizational approaches do not require differentiated materials for each grade level to qualify for SELect.

Program Partnership Requests

/
    • CASEL does not provide private evaluation services. See below for information on how to find an evaluator. CASEL does not endorse evaluators; however, those on this list have extensive experience conducting program evaluations in schools and districts.

    • No. Our intention with the CASEL Program Guide is to serve as a neutral party in advancing SEL research and practice, and this requires us to consistently apply our criteria and procedures. In the spirit of transparency and fairness, we make our evaluation and program design criteria and review cycle openings available to the public.

    • CASEL does not charge program providers to review evaluation reports or program design materials.

Selecting a Program Using the CASEL Program Guide

/
    • CASEL is not a program or curriculum. CASEL collaborates with leading experts and support districts, schools, and states nationwide to drive research, guide practice, and inform policy. Specifically, with programs, CASEL serves as a neutral body in the field, evaluating programs against our rigorous criteria to determine those that are high-quality, evidence-based, and universal. Those that meet our criteria are included in our consumer-style report guides. You can review the programs in those guides to find one that best fits your needs.

    • Each of the CASEL designated programs includes a unique set of offerings and corresponding pricing structure. Pricing may be dependent on the training modality or length of use, as well as the number of schools, teachers, and/or students the program is purchased for. For this reason, we recommend district- and school-level implementers contact SEL programs directly to get the most accurate pricing information.

    • Each program description page in the Program Guide includes details about the students and schools where the SEL program was found effective. This includes both school-level characteristics (e.g., Title 1 status, location) and student-level characteristics (e.g., race/ethnicity, family income). You can filter and sort based on these characteristics to see if the program has demonstrated effectiveness for student populations like yours. ESSA requires that there be similarities between the evaluation setting and or samples and that of the interested purchaser to qualify for Tiers 1 or 2. Additionally, we encourage you to reach out to the program provider for more information and or to see if they have conducted additional evaluations they have not shared with the CASEL Program Guide team.

    • If you do not see a specific program in the CASEL Program Guide, then it is not currently included. Please note, CASEL only reviews programs that have submitted to be reviewed.

    • CASEL believes that SEL can advance educational equity and excellence and recently updated our definition and framework to pay close attention to how SEL affirms the identities, strengths and experiences of all children, including those who have been marginalized in our education systems.

      For the Program Guide specifically, these updates are seen in the inclusion of criteria for programs that offer effective strategies explicitly connected to supporting educational equity: understanding context, working with bias, youth action projects, and customizing for context. If a program addresses any of these strategies, that will be listed on the program description page. You can learn more about these strategies on the Connect Your Criteria page.

    • An organizational strategies approach indicates that at the highest levels of school leadership (i.e., principals), a school is working to create policies and organizational structures that support students’ and educators’ social and emotional development. Programs using an organizational approach to SEL are evaluated based on (1) alignment to the four focus areas of CASEL’s Schoolwide Theory of Action and (2) support for implementing systems and structures for continuous improvement.

    • If a program offers translated versions of their materials it is indicated in the first paragraph on the program description page. If there is a program you are interested in that does not have a translated version indicated, we recommend contacting the provider directly as they will have the most up-to-date information.

    • The 10 Indicators of Schoolwide SEL create a vision for what fully implemented, Schoolwide SEL looks like. Evidence-based programs play an important role in this systemic approach by helping to create a common language and providing concrete strategies for educators to implement in classrooms and schools. Depending on their approach, programs can support positive school or classroom climate, explicit SEL skills instruction, and/or SEL integration into academics among other indicators.

    • The Program Guide aims to provide users with high-level overviews of programs to get them started on their selection journey. For more detailed information about the experience of using the program, we recommend reaching out to the provider for case studies and testimonials. You can also contact a school/district who has implemented the program. Frequently, program providers list the schools and district in which their program has been adopted on their website.

    • At the bottom of each SEL programs’ webpage there is a list of references for evaluation reports that the program provider has shared with the CASEL Program Guide team. You may be able to find these evaluation reports online (searching in Google or Google Scholar) or on the SEL program’s website (many programs have a ‘research’ or ‘impact’ section on their website). If you are not able to find evaluation reports online, contact the program directly and ask for copies of research or evaluation reports that you are interested in.

    • CASEL serves as a neutral body in the field, evaluating programs against our rigorous criteria to determine those that are high-quality, evidence-based, and universal. We do not promote individual SEL programs, nor do we provide individual assistance to district- and school-level staff in selecting a SEL program. Use the Selecting an Evidence Based Program tool for guidance on creating an inclusive process aligned to your school or district priorities. Additionally, you can use the comparison tool to help decide which program best fits your students’ needs.

    • CASEL’s aim with the Program Guide is to serve as a neutral party in advancing SEL research and practice. The SEL programs included in the Program Guide are separate, third party organizations. CASEL is not involved in any of the programs’ business practices, which means that we do not promote individual programs, nor do we provide customer support or technical assistance for individual programs, including resolving issues. If a SEL program is not responsive in a way that works for your team, it may be best to consider other programs.

Access the latest, most trusted information on SEL

Sign up for our newsletters