SEL Policy

SEL Policy in Massachusetts


An Act for Prevention and Access to Appropriate Care and Treatment of Addiction ​

August 2018

Established a permanent Promote Prevent Commission which will advance state and local policies, programs, systems, and practices to promote positive mental, emotional, and behavioral health and prevent behavioral health issues including substance use, mental illness, and youth violence. SEL4MA Executive Director Jim Vetter will serve on the permanent commission.

Also established a Behavioral Health Promotion, Prevention, and Early Intervention (BeHaPPE) Trust Fund, which will fund a statewide vision for promoting behavioral health and preventing behavioral health issues through evidence-based programing.

Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence

August 2014

Individual school districts may vote to implement a “safe and supportive school” defined as “fostering a safe, positive, healthy and inclusive whole-school learning environment that (i) enable students to develop positive relationships with adults and peers, regulate their emotions and behavior, achieve academic and non-academic success in school and maintain physical and psychological health and well-being and (ii) integrate services and align initiatives that promote students’ behavioral health, including social and emotional learning, bullying prevention, trauma sensitivity, dropout prevention, truancy reduction, children’s mental health, foster care and homeless youth education, inclusion of students with disabilities, positive behavioral approaches that reduce suspensions and expulsions and other similar initiatives.”

An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools

May 2010

Required the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to publish and biennially update Guidelines on Implementing SEL and defined SEL as “the processes by which children acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions and constructively handle challenging social situations.”


Massachusetts Standards for Preschool and Kindergarten Social and Emotional Learning, and Approaches to Play and Learning

June 2015

The standards bring attention to critical areas of development and learning that positively impact student outcomes and can be used to guide efforts to strengthen curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development and family engagement. They were developed as a collaborative initiative with the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the University of Massachusetts/Boston with funding from the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant.


Social and Emotional Learning for All: Access, Cultural Proficiency, and Cultural Responsiveness

May 2018

Guidance and reflective tools focused on the critical intersection between SEL and culturally responsive teaching.

Guidelines on Implementing SEL

November 2017

Guidelines for schools and districts on how to effectively implement social and emotional learning curricula for students in grades K-12. The information provided relates to leadership, professional development, resource coordination, instructional approaches, policies and protocols, and collaboration with families.

Guidebook for Inclusive Practice

June 2017

Created by Massachusetts educators, this Guidebook includes tools for districts, schools, and educators that are aligned to the MA Educator Evaluation Framework and promote evidence-based best practices for inclusion following the principles of Universal Design for Learning, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, and Social and Emotional Learning.

SEL Guiding Principles in Math/ELA Curriculum Frameworks

March 2017

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to adopt revised learning standards in math and in English language arts and literacy. Social Emotional Learning was included as a Guiding Principle in each. See SEL in Math and SEL in ELA.

Guidelines for Professional Standards for Teachers​

January 2015

New guidelines for professional standards for teachers from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) included two new indicators related to SEL:
  • 2(e): Social and Emotional Learning Indicator: Employs a variety of strategies to assist students to develop social emotional- competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
  • 2(f): Classroom Management Indicator: Employs a variety of classroom management strategies, and establishes and maintains effective routines and procedures that promote positive student behavior.