Student Support Services

Social Emotional Learning: Essential for Learning, Essential for Life, Essential for New York



The impact of this work is apparent in our data, including our academic performance. Surveys of teachers, students, and parents show how much trust there is between students and staff.  Suspensions are now a rarity. The way we’re relating to students now - it brings you back to why we went into education in the first place.

-Patrick Burns, Principal
MS 217, Queens

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) “is the process through which children, youth, and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has identified Five Core SEL Competencies: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making.(1)

Social emotional learning (SEL) has an important role to play in making schools safe and maintaining a caring school climate; facilitating students’ holistic development; and enhancing student motivation, self-expectations and high achievement.

Students who received SEL instruction exhibited the following results(2):

  • Achievement scores 11-13 points higher
  • Improved attitudes and behaviors, including motivation to learn, commitment to school, and engagement in the classroom
  • Fewer negative behaviors, including disruptive classroom behaviors, non-compliance, aggression, and disciplinary referrals
Reduced emotional stress, including student depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal

SEL begins at home and is facilitated through supportive school and classroom environments; school, family and community connections; skills acquired pre-K to 12 through instruction and mentoring; after school, extra curricular and service learning programs; school and community prevention and intervention services; and professional development for all staff.

New York’s Social Emotional Learning Goals

NYSED has established three goals for NY’s students:

  • Develop self-awareness and self-management skills essential to success in school and in life
  • Use social awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships
  • Demonstrate ethical decision-making skills and responsible behaviors in personal, school, and community contexts

SEL and Academic Instruction

Integrating SEL into academic instruction includes free-standing lessons that teach SEL competencies, inclusion of SEL in academics, and teaching practices to create classroom and schoolwide conditions that teach and model SEL

SEL and School Climate

Critical conditions for learning include:

  • An engaged school community responsive to culture, race, ethnicity, language, and socio-economic status
  • safe and inclusive academic environments that recognize and value the languages and cultures of all students.
  • caring connections, trust, and respect
  • activities and curricula that engage and challenge

Without these conditions, students are more likely to engage in negative behaviors, disengage from school, and dropout.(3)

SEL and Approach to Discipline

Restorative Practices draw on SEL competencies to help students understand why a behavior is unacceptable and the harm it causes, take responsibility, understand what they could have done differently, learn strategies and skills to use in the future, and understand consequences.

SEL and Mental Health

SEL can support required Mental Health Education under Education Law §804, effective July 1, 2018. Learn more on our Mental Health Education web page.

SEL and Trauma

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and trauma can have a negative impact on young peoples’ ability to learn and on school outcomes. SEL can nurture skills that better equip young people to manage responses and improve outcomes.

SEL and Economic Impact

SEL provides an $11 return for every $1 invested in school-based SEL programming with proven outcomes.(4)

SEL and Equity

Increasing SEL competencies can decrease implicit bias, increase cultural responsiveness, and result in greater equity for New York’s young people.

  • Implicit biases are unconscious stereotypes and attitudes that can negatively impact students. Increasing SEL competencies can help us manage these biases.
  • To reduce these biases, we must be able to see them in ourselves (self-awareness), manage them (self-management), and manage their influence on our attitudes, actions, and decisions (social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making).

Culturally Responsive Practices means relating teaching and learning in the context of students’ cultural identity and experience and requires skill in all the SEL competencies. It has been effective in improving student academic performance and life opportunities.

(1) Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (2018) Core SEL Competencies.

(2) Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, and Schellinger. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, and Taylor, R. D., Oberle, E., Durlak, J. A. and Weissberg, R. P. (2017). Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects. Child Dev.

(3) Osher, Coggshall, Colombi, Woodruff, Francois, and Osher. (2012). Building school and teacher capacity to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children.

(4) Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College. (2015). The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning.

Contact Us

NYSED Office of Student Support Services


Last Updated: September 2, 2020