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May 7, 2018
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Presents New Guidance and Resources for Schools to Implement Social and Emotional Learning

Resources Support New York’s ESSA Plan Priorities and Development of a School Climate Index

New guidance and resources will soon be available for school districts to support implementation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) benchmarks, policies and programs, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced today. The State Education Department presented the materials to the Board of Regents today at its meeting in Albany.

“The Board of Regents places an emphasis on educating the whole child,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “To be successful in today’s society, children’s learning needs to go beyond academics and include acquiring the social and emotional skills to have successful relationships, understand and work through emotions, and make good life choices.”

“Studies show high-quality, evidence-based social emotional learning programs can help children reduce emotional distress, decrease disruptive behavior, increase commitment to school, and bolster academic achievement,” Commissioner Elia said. “Our ESSA plan recognizes the value of supporting students both on a social emotional level and an academic level. We hope schools will use these resources to expand student learning to interpersonal skills and well-being.”

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social emotional learning “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.”

As a strategy to promote equity in education for all children, social emotional learning is a key component in the Board and Department’s work through participating in the New York State Safe Schools Task Force, implementing New York’s ESSA plan, developing a School Climate Index, and providing resources to support mental health education in schools.

In August 2016, the CASEL identified New York as one of nine states to participate in Cohort II of the Collaborating States Initiative to advance policies, guidelines and standards for preschool to high school for SEL.

Further, New York State’s recently approved ESSA Plan placed an emphasis on the importance of social emotional development and well-being. Fostering the development of SEL competencies for all students and adults in schools and communities supports the ESSA Plan priorities to improve academic achievement and graduation rates, improve school climate, and increase educational equity.

Research suggests that social emotional learning benchmarks for students may increase the likelihood that students will receive better instruction in social emotional learning, experience improved school connectedness, and become better learners. The New York State Safe Schools Task Force identified the following goals to guide SEL benchmarks for New York State schools:

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

Next Steps

Department staff will incorporate feedback from the Board of Regents into a series of guidance documents, distribute these resources to the field, and post them on the NYSED website by June 30, 2018.

The new resources for educators will include:

  • A one-page overview outlining the Social Emotional Learning: Essential for Learning; Essential for Life guidance
  • Full Document of the Social Emotional Learning: Essential for Learning, Essential for Life - a framework for SEL in New York; and
  • New York State Social Emotional Learning Benchmarks, that will provide goals and activities by grade level on SEL competencies to guide SEL practice.