Excellence through Social Emotional Learning Network

Excellence through Social-Emotional Learning (exSEL) is looking for Massachusetts districts interested in joining a network focused on promoting social-emotional learning in schools. The exSEL coalition and its partners—The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, Teachers21, and Transforming Education—will work directly with teams of district leaders to:

  • Design and implement SEL initiatives that advance student learning and success, starting with a focus on growth mindset;
  • Collect and analyze SEL data to better understand learning and inform decision-making;
  • Increase teacher engagement in and capacity for school and district efforts; and
  • Develop skills, structures, and policies that can sustain effective practices over time.


All Massachusetts school districts are eligible to participate in the exSEL Network. We are looking for a minimum one-year engagement. Districts are expected to contribute $5,000 per year to help offset the total cost of these services. To apply, please follow the format outlined in the request for applications form. Please notify us of your intent to apply by June 30. Applications are due July 31. Contact us with any questions. 


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Will districts be expected to implement a specific curriculum or program?
    The aim of this network is to encourage districts to plan how to integrate social-emotional learning (SEL) systemically into classroom, school and district practices and policies. District teams may investigate specific curriculum programs or interventions as part of their plan to improve SEL skills in students or adults; however, choosing to implement a specific curriculum or program is not required. 
  2. Must the application involve the entire district, or can it focus on individual schools as a pilot?
    The application can focus on a subset of schools within the district so long as district leadership is represented on the district team. We encourage any application to be comprised of a representative sample of schools, teachers, and students in the district. 
  3. My district did not submit a letter of intent (by June 30th), can we still apply?
    Yes, the letter of intent is non-binding, and your district is encouraged to submit an application by July 31st, if you are interested in participating in the exSEL network initiative.
  4. Can you provide more detail about the district’s commitment and the resources that will be made available? Are specific supports or services attached to the district’s $5,000 contribution?
    A combination of professional development and targeted technical assistance will be delivered to support the creation of a plan to integrate SEL. This combination of services will be delivered by three organizations -- the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, Transforming Education, and Teachers21--in the form of five facilitated half-day sessions, scheduled throughout the 2017-2018 school year, as well as a series of virtual touch-point support sessions. The district teams will be expected to commit to these sessions. For more information, please refer to the Request for Application (RFA).
  5. Can you provide more information about what services will be provided for high school students and staff?
    Facilitated sessions will include SEL content, professional development and targeted technical assistance that can be applied to grades K-12. If an applicant district is interested in a particular sub-group or sub-population of students (e.g., based on age, grade range, learning needs), resources can be tailored to meet those needs.
  6. Is the proposal and the application one and the same or will there be a separate application? Is there an application form to fill out or are we just submitting written responses to the questions in section III of the RFA?
    An application, described in detail in the Request for Applications (RFA) that has been released, is all that is required. All details for applying are contained in Section III. Applications may be submitted as a word document or in other easily readable and downloadable forms.
  7. Are there any priorities regarding district size or demographics?
    Districts of all sizes and demographic profiles are encouraged to apply.  The priority of exSEL is to include districts that represent a wide variety of student populations.
  8. The application states that the team should consist of 4-6 members. Is it possible to send a larger group?
    District teams can be comprised of a larger, or more diverse, group of educators from your district. However, depending on the number of districts that are selected, there may be limits on the number of district team members that can attend each half-day professional development session.
  9. Is the needs assessment mentioned in the RFA provided by exSEL, or do districts need to create their own assessment?
    The exSEL initiative will facilitate a 4-part needs assessment with participating districts. The needs assessment process will guide the structure and topics that are presented in the joint professional development sessions (see more information below). The needs assessment process will focus on the status of SEL needs in your district; district teams need not provide any assessment materials.
  10. What will the joint sessions look like?
    Five half-day sessions will be facilitated by members of the three partner organizations—The Rennie Center, Transforming Education, and Teachers 21—for all participating districts and be structured in response to districts' articulated needs in integrating SEL. Each session will include district and school level perspectives to assist in building a road map for teams to integrate SEL throughout the district.
  11. Does it matter if different schools in a district are at different levels of development with SEL?
    We expect that many districts will contain schools at varying levels of SEL development, and we encourage these districts to apply. The development of a district needs assessment and cross-district plan will assist in efforts to capitalize on these variations of SEL efforts, as well as develop common ways in which to assess progress. 
  12. Outside of participation in the exSEL Network will there be opportunities to collaborate on SEL with others interested in this work?
    Based on the expertise of the three partnering organizations, we anticipate being able to connect district participants with additional state, district, and external (organizational) resources. Building additional collaborative opportunities with these resources outside the network depends on the capacity, interest, and needs of the district.


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