All Students Can Benefit from SEL: The Importance of Tier I SEL Screening and Supports

SEL is important for so many reasons. It helps students work through stress, uncertainty, trauma, and fear. It gives students an outlet to talk through problems and issues going on in their lives. It helps students engage and take ownership of their learning, and it fosters strong teacher-student relationships. In short, it is essential for academic learning and success.

Students need more support than ever before, and supporting students’ social and emotional health is a big part of helping them succeed. An important first step in ensuring all students are getting the assistance and resources they need is through Tier 1 SEL assessment and systemic, high-quality SEL supports.

Universal SEL Screening

Now, more than ever, we need to be assessing all students’ social and emotional skills. Students who may have never shown any risk indicators may now be struggling. And students previously identified as at-risk are likely to need even more help. Additionally, it’s important to pinpoint and address issues of concern within your student body as a whole so you can cultivate a caring and supportive school culture. A Tier 1 SEL assessment will help you identify school-wide areas to prioritize, and it also will identify students who need additional supports.

Here is a basic framework for conducting a Tier 1 SEL assessment in your school:

Step 1. Assess social and emotional competence with a quality SEL assessment like the DESSA (

Step 2. Deliver consistent, high-quality SEL instruction to all students.

Step 3. Align SEL data with academic data, such as grades and attendance, to identify students who need additional academic and/or SEL support (Tier II).

Systemic SEL Support

The best SEL programs are systematic and designed with continuous improvement in mind. These programs take a long-term, sustained approach that is centered on helping all students, families, and educators develop critical social and emotional skills.

Here are eight ways to create a sustainable, systemic SEL program:

  1. Align your SEL program to state SEL standards.
  2. Embed SEL into your district practices.
  3. Choose a quality SEL assessment.
  4. Start with a pilot and then scale your SEL program.
  5. Provide high-quality SEL professional development to your staff.
  6. Prioritize building educators’ social and emotional skills.
  7. Support your staff through coaching and mentoring.
  8. Implement, assess, adjust, and repeat.

COVID-19 has tested our resilience and ability to work through some pretty tough challenges. It also shone a light on why SEL is so important. It can help them work though their feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear, and it can also help keep their academic learning on-track. It’s important to implement a Tier 1 approach so all students get the supports they need.

Contact our SEL advisors today to learn more!