SEL and Equity: Follow the Data (A Recap of our recent EdWeek Webinar)

Members from across ACT (Social, Emotional, and Academic Research, Center for Equity in Learning, and SEL Curricula and Assessment) recently partnered with EdWeek to host a webinar, Social and Emotional Learning and Equity: Follow the Data.

The webinar highlighted how social and emotional learning (SEL) can be leveraged to promote educational equity. We covered a lot of great information – data, research, practical application – below addresses the main takeaways:

  • Our schools and classrooms grow in diversity every day, and it is more crucial now than ever, that we ensure all students receive the supports and tools to develop necessary skills for educational and workplace success. Leveraging SEL is critical in bringing us closer to making educational equity a reality. All learning is social and emotional, and a powerful side effect is equity. But we can’t leave equity to chance.


  • Equity in education goes deeper than providing equal education to all students. Equity in education means that we must provide each student with the education they needto live and thrive. It is about ensuring equally high outcomes for all students regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, and cultural or socioeconomic background.


  • Educators are embracing SEL to promote educational equity. SEL…
    • Promotes college and career readiness
    • Equips students with tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives
    • Enables educators to interrupt inequitable practices
    • Fosters a strengths-based perspective


  • The application of research-based SEL tools and interventions results in significant positive impacts for students and workers, especially those who are underserved.
    • SEL doesn’t at all deter from academic instruction or performance, but instead, it enhances it. [1]
    • Social and emotional skills are positively related to GPA and persistence in college. [2]
    • The hours employees spend doing tasks that will require social and emotional skills is projected to increase by 24% from 2016 – 2030. Their expected growth is higher than the growth needed in higher cognitive skills and is second only to technological skills. In order to prepare our students for tomorrow’s workforce, it is key that we build their social and emotional skills today. [3]
    • Research also shows that SEL interventions deliver an economic benefit to society. For every $1 spent on SEL programming, there was an $11 return. [4]


  • In partnership with Region One ESC in South Texas, a longitudinal cohort of about ten thousand students were followed from grades 7-12. Students (largely Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, and limited English proficiency) were administered ACT’s first-generation SEL assessment near the end of each school year. The assessment included various scales measuring social and emotional skills and an academic success index. Key conclusions from the study revealed:
    • Region One students scored higher on an academic success index s than the national mean trajectory. This is likely due to the range of SEL and college readiness services Region One provided to students in between assessment points. Students who scored at the lowest levels at the beginning of the grant cycle achieved the most gains. Essentially, students who were most at risk after 7th grade were able to close the gap – by the end of their 12th grade year, students starting in the lower quartile had academic readiness scores about on par with the national mean trajectory. In giving the most at-risk students the resources and SEL supports they need, we can close gaps, and enable them to approach readiness levels on par with their more advantaged peers.
    • This ultimately suggests that deliberate implementation of SEL assessment, followed by intervention and facilitator PD, can truly improve equity-based outcomes for underserved learners.


ACT SEL Curricula and Assessment (Mawi Learning™ and ACT®Tessera®) offer K-12 curriculum – including specialized programs for English learners – assessment, and professional development. Aligned to CASEL framework, the products leverage strong mental models that allow students and educators the maximum potential for practical application. We believe that SEL must not only be understood, but also applied in our lives, in the classroom, and in our school and community.

You can watch the full webinar or review the presentation here. We encourage you to have an open discussion in your schools and districts about equity in education and ways underserved learners can be supported, especially through SEL. It is key that all of us continually consider equity in order to make positive educational outcomes possible for all students.


[1] Corcoran, R. P., Cheung, A., *Kim, E., & *Chen, X. (2018). Effective universal school-based social and emotional learning programs for improving academic achievement: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 50 years of research. Educational Research Review. Available from URL

[2] Robbins, S. B., Lauver, K., Le, H., Davis, D., Langley, R., & Carlstrom, A. (2004). Do psychosocial and study skill factors predict college outcomes? A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 130(2), 261-288. Available from URL:

[3] Bughin, J., Hazan, E., Lund, S., Dahlstrom, P., Wiesinger, A., & Subramaniam, A. (2018). Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce. McKinsey Global Institute Discussion Paper, May 2018. Available from URL:

[4] Belfield, C., Bowden, B., Klapp, A., Levin, H., Shand, R., & Zander, S. (2015). The economic value of social and emotional learning. Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, 6(3), 508-544. Available from URL: