School-based social emotional instruction

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • School-based instruction that focuses on self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making
  • Lessons help students recognize and manage emotions, set goals, understand others’ perspectives, etc.
  • Whole-class settings (rather than focusing only on at-risk students) have demonstrated better results
Target Population
All school-aged children
Cost per Participant
Not available

Evidence and impacts


Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

  • Strong evidence that social-emotional instruction improves high school graduation rates, academic achievement, self-confidence, motivation to learn, social emotional skills, and prosocial behavior
  • Demonstrated to reduce depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal
  • Interventions are effective in low-income communities
  • Effects tend to be strongest in younger children

Best practices in implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Programs can be designed for students of all ages but interventions that begin in earlier grades show stronger results over time.
  • Successful programs emphasize building staff capacity for cultivating their own social, emotional, and cultural competence and building collaborative and trusting relationships within the school environment. This enables staff to model SEL learnings to their students.
  • High-fidelity program design and execution, along with regular, independent measurement, are critical for ensuring successful outcomes.
  • Vocal support from local officials is essential in ensuring funding and advocacy for SEL programs in schools.
  • Partnerships with independent program evaluators are critical in measuring student progress and program success.
  • Partnerships with case management professionals can help students in need of mental health support or behavioral counseling access services.