For Providers

If you represent a program that is considering applying for inclusion in the CASEL Guide for Evidence-Based Social and Emotional Learning Programs, we recommend using the resources and information below to plan for and engage in the application and review process. Subscribe to CASEL’s Newsletter to be alerted about Program Guide-related updates.

The application portal will open again in 2025.

Review Process

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Wondering if your SEL program is eligible for the CASEL Program Guide? Download the evaluation and program design checklists (under Submission Materials below) to better understand our criteria as you prepare to apply. Read more about the criteria for inclusion and program designations.

    • The 2023-24 application is now closed. The next review cycle will begin in 2025. Subscribe to CASEL’s newsletter to stay up to date on the application window for the Program Guide. 

      Note: Completion of the checklists is optional and does not serve as a formal submission. They are intended to help you plan for your submission to CASEL. After completing the checklists, you will need to complete the submission process through the portal. Each submission is thoroughly reviewed by a team of research practitioners to determine eligibility.

      • Submission Readiness Checklist: A list of materials and information you will need to successfully complete the CASEL Program Guide review process.
      • Evaluation Report Checklist: This checklist is intended to guide program providers in designing, analyzing, and writing a high-quality evaluation and evaluation report.
    • The application portal is closed. It will open again in 2025. 

      The CASEL Program Guide review provides a systematic framework for evaluating the quality of social and emotional programs and applies this framework to identify and rate well-designed, evidence-based SEL programs with potential for broad dissemination to schools across the United States. The review process is 30 weeks in length and consists of 4 stages, which applying programs move through as approved by the CASEL Program Guide team.

Criteria for Inclusion

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To qualify for inclusion in the CASEL Guide for Evidence-Based Social and Emotional Learning Programs, a program provider must submit for review 1) a qualifying COMPLETED evaluation demonstrating evidence of effectiveness and 2) all program design materials. During the review process, a programs’ qualifying evaluations are reviewed first and, if deemed to meet CASEL’s criteria, receive a rating of SELect or Promising. Next, a program’s design materials are reviewed and, if meeting CASEL’s criteria, receive a rating of SELect, Promising, or SEL-Supportive.

If a program meets SELect or Promising evaluation criteria AND SELect, Promising, or SEL-Supportive design criteria, its final designation will be the lower of the two. For example, a program meeting SELect evaluation criteria and Promising design criteria would receive a final designation of Promising.

This page presents an overview of CASEL’s qualifying criteria for evaluation review and design review, with some additional details. We recommend reviewing these criteria closely prior to submitting a program for consideration.

To learn more about these criteria, including how they were developed, expanded rationale, and relevant citations, we encourage you to read our rationale brief.

Evaluation Criteria

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To be considered for inclusion in the CASEL Guide to Evidence-Based Social and Emotional Learning Programs, a program or approach must have a COMPLETED 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 types of outcomes demonstrated in the evaluation.

      1. The evaluation must use a pre-post randomized control trial (RCT) or pre-post quasi-experimental (QE) design that includes an appropriate comparison group that did not participate in the program. Each evaluation must have a minimum of 100 participants in the final analytic sample and have acceptable attrition rates.
        1. An evaluation is considered to be an RCT when participants were assigned to conditions (i.e., intervention, comparison) on a random basis. A study is considered a QE design when group assignment was conducted through a process that was not random or when randomization was broken for any reason. Each evaluation must have at least 100 participants in the final analytic sample (where there are least 50 participants in the final analytic sample in each study group) and fall within What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) liberal attrition standards.
      2. The evaluation must assess the effects of a program that is implemented at the universal level, during the regular school day, and with students who are within a grade range that spans from preschool through 12th.
        1. At present, the focus of the Program Guide is on universal programs that are designed to be implemented with all students in a school or classroom setting during the regularly-scheduled school day. We do not include evaluations of programs that were conducted with students who were pre-selected based on a history or risk of a behavioral or emotional problem (e.g., the program is designed only for students with a history of aggression or trauma). Nor do we include evaluations conducted in non-traditional or out-of-school settings, or when multiple, simultaneous inventions are being evaluated (e.g., an in-school intervention is being conducted at the same time and with the same participants as an after-school intervention). The one exception we make regarding the universality rule is that we will review evaluations that preselected students based on a history or risk of academic failure.
      3. The evaluation must report statistically significant main effects (at the p < .05 probability level or smaller) between the intervention and comparison group adjusting for outcome pretest and using clear and appropriate analytic methods.
        1. The CASEL Program Guide focuses on evaluations with a demonstrated statistical difference (p < .05 or smaller) in the way the participants (i.e., students, teachers) in the intervention group changed compared to the way the participants in the comparison group changed, while simultaneously (statistically) taking into account outcome pretest (e.g., as a covariate or level). Evaluations must test for baseline equivalence differences on all outcomes of interest. There is one exception made to the Program Guide’s requirement that pretest data be collected; we review RCTs with posttest only data that have at least 350 participants in the final analytic sample and with power analyses that demonstrate the intervention and the comparison groups are properly powered. We adhere to the intent-to-treat principle, therefore evaluations may not exclude sample data based on implementation factors when estimating intervention effects (e.g., exclude participants with low fidelity). We also encourage submitters to include theoretically meaningful covariates (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender) in their models when possible.
      4. Positive effects must be found with students on outcomes in at least one of the following student outcome domains: (1) improved positive social behavior, (2) reduced problem behavior, and (3) reduced emotional distress, (4) improved student-reported identity and agency, (5) improved school connectedness, (6) improved school climate. Furthermore, the preponderance of evidence from an evaluation must indicate positive effects on these measures for students in the intervention group and must not favor the comparison group that did not participate in the intervention.

      Student Outcomes:

      Student outcomes are assessments of student’s behaviors or performance over time and can be assessed by a wide variety of reporters, including by the students themselves. There are six categories of qualifying student outcomes.

      1. Improved Positive Social Behavior: Significant impact on measures of positive social behavior (e.g., works well with others, positive peer relations, assertiveness) that favor the intervention group.
      2. Reduced Problem Behavior: Significant impact on clearly operationalized problem behaviors (e.g., aggressive or disruptive behavior, substance use) that favor the intervention group.
      3. Reduced Emotional Distress: Significant impact on emotional distress (e.g., depressive symptoms, social withdrawal) that favor the intervention group.
      4. Improved student-reported identity and agency: Significant impact on student-reported identity and or agency (e.g., self-efficacy, race/ethnic identity) that favor the intervention group.
      5. Improved school connectedness: Significant impact on school connectedness (e.g., school belonging, engagement) that favor the intervention group. In evaluations with middle and or high school students, these outcomes must be self-reported by the student to qualify for SELect.
      6. Improved school climate Significant impact on aspects of school climate (e.g., interracial school climate, academic press) that favor the intervention group. In evaluations with middle and or high school students, these outcomes must be self-reported by the student to qualify for SELect.
    • A qualifying evaluation receives a Promising rating when it falls short of meeting ALL SELect criteria. Below are common reasons for a qualifying evaluation to receive a Promising rating:

      1. If a qualifying evaluation only showed a positive effect favoring the intervention group on an additional student outcome that does not fall into the above categories.
        1. Additional student outcomes may include (but are not limited to) attitudes (e.g., empathy, gratitude), students’ perception of their own social-emotional competencies (e.g., emotion recognition, decision-making ability), values, or intentions (e.g., assessed via vignettes).
      2. If a qualifying evaluation only showed a positive effect favoring the intervention group on student academic performance.
        1. Student academic performance outcomes may include (but are not limited to) state standardized test scores, grade point averages, achievement tests.
      3. If a qualifying evaluation only showed a positive effect favoring the intervention group on an improved teaching outcome.
        1. Qualifying improved teaching practices promotes students’ positive social and emotional development. Improved teaching practices may include (but are not limited to) outcomes regarding improved classroom management/organization, improved supportive, inclusive classroom environments (e.g., greater emotional support or warmth, decreased negative discipline strategies), or those that set higher student expectations (e.g., greater inclusion of critical thinking or problem-based learning strategies)
      4. If a qualifying evaluation used appropriate analyses, but the analyses did not statistically account for the pretest scores, they could be considered for Promising only if the evaluation demonstrated that the two study groups were equivalent at baseline on the outcome of interest.
        1. If outcome pretest is not statistically accounted for and baseline equivalence was not established on an outcome of interest, the evaluation is excluded.
      5. If a qualifying evaluation indicates effects that favor the comparison group on student outcomes, but the preponderance of that evaluation’s effects favor the intervention group by at least a 2:1 ratio (i.e., at least two effects favoring the intervention group for every one effect favoring the comparison group).
        1. If an evaluation does not have effects favoring the intervention group by at least a 2:1 ratio, that evaluation is excluded.

Design Criteria

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After a program meets the criteria from the outcome evaluation portion of the review process and is determined to satisfy either the SELect or Promising level of evidence, CASEL reviews and codes the program’s design materials and reviews their training and implementation support to determine if they meet CASEL design inclusion criteria for the CASEL Guide. Below is a summary of the current design criteria for SELect, Promising, and SEL-Supportive programming.

Note: If a program meets SELect or Promising evaluation criteria AND SELect, Promising, or SEL-Supportive design criteria, its final designation will be the lower of the two. For example, a program meeting SELect evaluation criteria and Promising design criteria would receive a final designation of Promising.

    • To qualify for a SELect design review designation, a program must have ALL the following features:

      • School-Based and Designed to be Delivered to all Students. SEL programs in the Program Guide are designed for school-based settings, meaning they are for all students, regardless of risk status and implemented during regular school hours. For example, a program specifically designed for a particular subset of students would not qualify.
      • Comprehensive. Comprehensive programming across five core social and emotional competencies: self awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making are demonstrated in the curriculum or approach.
      • Grade-by-Grade Sequence. The program allows for sequenced programming for each grade level across the grade range covered. A program must either provide unique programming (e.g., separate curricula) for each grade within the grade range covered or provide guidance for how to implement the program in developmentally appropriate ways across multiple years.
      • Approaches. Programs can be conceptualized as reflecting one or more of the following four approaches:
        • Free-standing lessons specifically and explicitly designed to enhance students’ social and emotional competencies (e.g., such as a lesson that teaches students strategies for coping with stress or anxiety).
        • Teaching practices designed to create optimal conditions for the development of social and emotional competence, including strategies that promote reflection by students or build positive and supportive relationships among teachers, students, and families.
        • Organizational strategies designed to create schoolwide structures and supports to promote students’ social and emotional development, including a schoolwide culture conducive to learning. Such approaches should also ensure that evidence-based practices or programs are used to support student social and emotional development.
        • Academic integration that incorporates SEL lessons or practices and academic instructional content and practices (such as an ELA, social studies, or mathematics curriculum that incorporates SEL lessons or practices).
      • Opportunities to practice social and emotional competencies. The CASEL Program Guide team reviews the extent to which the programs provide meaningful, authentic opportunities for students to practice new competencies and mindsets. For self-management and relationship skills, practice should have students participate in active learning activities, such as role-play, using breathing techniques, setting personally meaningful goals, or using “I feel” statements with a peer. Opportunities to practice for self-awareness, social awareness, and responsible decision-making involve activities such as journaling about one’s feelings, learning about differing perspectives on an issue, or reflecting on how personal choices can impact the larger community.
      • SAFE. Programs include each of the evidence-based strategies represented by the acronym SAFE. These strategies include the use of a sequenced step-by-step training approach, emphasizing active forms of learning by having youth practice new competencies and mindsets, focusing specific time and attention on competency development, and explicitly defining the SEL competencies they attempt to promote.
        • Sequenced. Connected and coordinated activities to foster competency development.
        • Active. Active forms of learning to help students engage with and internalize new competencies.
        • Focused. Containing an activity or component that clearly promotes developing personal and social competencies.
        • Explicit. Targeting specific social and emotional competencies.
    • A program receives a Promising design designation if it meets most, but not all, of the SELect criteria.

      See common reasons for a program receiving a Promising design designation below:

      • Program does not comprehensively cover all five CASEL competencies.
        • For example, a program that focuses solely on intrapersonal competencies (self-awareness and self-management) but not interpersonal competencies (social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making)
      • Program provides grade-banded curricula
        • For example, a program offers a single set of lessons for grades K-2 or insufficient guidance for scoping the program’s implementation over multiple grade levels.
      • There are insufficient opportunities for students to practice competencies
    • A program receives an SEL-Supportive design designation if it does not meet critical components of CASEL’s model for SEL programming but would offer high-quality support for a school’s SEL implementation.

      Specifically, these programs may not cover competencies comprehensively or do so in a narrow way (for example, confining self-management to deep breathing but not including important components like goal-setting), not offer adequate opportunities for practice and generalization, or not be part of a Tier 1 approach for all students.

    • In addition to the above criteria, CASEL reviews and documents the following additional information about each program. While none of these are currently exclusionary criteria, CASEL believes they are critical elements of high-quality SEL programming.

      • Strategies across Settings. In addition to the classroom and school settings, SEL can be supported and reinforced in the home and community. For example, activities such as service-learning provide opportunities for young people to learn and practice social and emotional competencies with others as well as to apply these competencies to improve their school and community. The Program Guide Team reviews and documents strategies within four settings—classroom, school, family, and community— to determine opportunities for students and adults to generalize and practice their competencies.
        • Strategies for each setting determined to be offered by the program are listed on their program description page on the CASEL Guide website
      • Training and Implementation Support. As part of our review process, CASEL asks applicants to provide relevant materials relating to training and implementation support offerings. While there is currently not a distinct threshold for quality of these materials to be included in the CASEL Guide, all programs must offer some form of training or implementation support
        • Additionally, reviewing a program’s training and implementation materials allows the CASEL reviewer to better understand the experience of a school or district who chooses to adopt it.
      • Strategies that Support Educational Equity. As part of CASEL’s ongoing commitment to understanding and highlighting how SEL can support the creation of equitable learning environments, programs are reviewed for strategies that support educational equity. These strategies were developed through empirical literature reviews, informational interviews with a subset of program providers to better understand the role of equity within SELect programs, and analyses of strategies in recently submitted programming. This includes strategies for understanding context, customizing for context, working with bias, and youth action projects.
        • Programs determined to offer examples of these strategies that meet CASEL’s definitions will have them highlighted on their program description page on the CASEL Guide Website.
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