Implementing Social-Emotional Learning: Insights from Districts’ Successes and Setbacks provides essential insights into the strategies that have enabled districts to effectively provide the benefits of social-emotional learning to their students. Building on case studies of six school districts that vary in size, geographic region, demographic diversity, per-pupil spending, staff capacity, and leadership style, this book offers indispensable observations about the factors that facilitate the deep integration of SEL into daily instruction and school culture. While the approaches these districts have taken vary in type and degree, clear-cut themes emerge that are common to the most successful strategies.

Building upon these case studies, Implementing Social-Emotional Learning: Insights from Districts’ Successes and Setbacks offers clear guidance so districts can avoid the errors that compromise implementation and can, instead, support district leaders in building successful and sustainable approaches that reach all students, including those at the challenging middle and high school levels.

Praise for Implementing Social-Emotional Learning: Insights from School Districts’ Successes and Setbacks

Thoughtfully planned and executed, social-emotional learning (SEL) opportunities can enhance student belonging, school safety, and academic performance. As Sheldon Berman makes clear in his in-depth analysis of SEL implementation in six districts—large and small, rural and suburban—achieving those outcomes requires that school leaders make SEL an explicit mission. School leaders must enable all staff to become knowledgeable and passionate advocates for learning that honors the whole student and integrates SEL into every aspect of the school’s culture and functioning. Everyone who is working to transform schools to support the whole child will benefit from Berman’s insights into these six districts’ stumbles and triumphs.

Linda Darling-Hammond, EdD, the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus, Stanford University; founding president, Learning Policy Institute; past co-chair of the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

As our society grapples with deep divisions, school district leaders must commit to action plans that ensure all students are in caring communities that help them thrive. Sheldon Berman’s latest book brings such plans to life, showing that SEL is not just about a program or evidence-based practices. It’s about the kinds of communities we need our schools to be. Offering case studies of six diverse districts, this text reveals how the research, effective programs, and a thoughtful leadership strategy can combine to create the conditions for all children to succeed. Berman reminds us that the achievements of students and educators emerge from an environment that brings out their best. This book shows leaders how implementing SEL can foster just such an ecosystem for learning.

Joshua P. Starr, EdD, managing partner at the International Center for Leadership in Education; former superintendent and former CEO of Phi Delta Kappa International

The pandemic was a vivid reminder of educators’ irreplaceable role in promoting students’ well-being. Still, such work is easier said than done. That’s where Sheldon Berman’s Implementing Social-Emotional Learning rises to meet the need. Brimming cover to cover with varied and doable strategies for transforming entire school systems, this book’s rich and granular descriptions of six districts in the midst of change show us how talented and committed educators are leading the way. Practical yet inspirational, this book will be devoured, studied, and embraced by those who care about our young people and our schools—and by those who are willing to dig in now to safeguard and enrich their future.

Dennis Shirley, EdD, the Gabelli Family Faculty Fellow and Professor, Lynch School of Education and Human Development, Boston College; author of Well-Being in Schools

As Sheldon Berman shows, there is no single approach to implementing social and emotional learning (SEL). His deep dive into the work of six school districts illuminates how high-quality SEL can be used to meet the unique needs of communities and families across the country and equip adults to serve students in their pursuit of academic excellence and social and emotional wellness. His book is a clarion call for a nationwide focus on social, emotional, and academic learning. Dr. Berman illuminates the critical importance of providing caring learning environments where students receive the instruction and support they need to thrive.

Aaliyah A. Samuel, PhD, President and CEO, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Local, State and National Engagement, U. S. Department of Education; Senior Fellow, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

In this important and timely book, Dr. Berman moves from theory to practice with regard to social and emotional learning. Offering compelling evidence and vivid case studies, he guides the reader through practical steps for implementing SEL. Teachers and education leaders, policymakers, and parents will find the practical guidance they need, now more than ever, to support students’ development and promote positive interactions with others.

Douglas Reeves, PhD, CEO, Creative Leadership Solutions; author of Fearless Schools

The case studies in this book by Sheldon Berman closely align with our work on teacher-student relationships. The districts’ challenges are presented sensitively, and the cases collectively illustrate the different forms, capacities, and pacing that any approach to school change may require. The “why-what-how” chapters feature some of the best integrations of scientific and practical knowledge I’ve seen relative to social-emotional learning. The “lessons learned” chapter is spot-on, and the book as a whole is a gift to the field as we strive to support positive social-emotional interactions in the classroom and in the broader community.

Robert C. Pianta, PhD, the Batten Bicentennial Professor of Early Childhood Education, School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia 

District-level adoption of SEL is a challenging process. This brilliant, easy-to-read book by Dr. Sheldon Berman offers insights on the what, the why, and the how of systemic SEL. One particularly unique aspect is that it shows how SEL plays out differently depending upon the students’ ages. This book will become a “go to” text for school leaders and will also lead to rich discussions in universities’ school of education courses. 

Sara E. Rimm-Kaufman, PhD, Commonwealth Professor of Education, University of Virginia