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Home > Blog > Webinar Highlights Family and Community Engagement in Social and Emotional Learning

Webinar Highlights Family and Community Engagement in Social and Emotional Learning

Joshua Cox

Joshua Cox
Senior Research Associate, REL Northeast & Islands

Wed May 01 2019

New federal guidance under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to construct a school accountability model that includes an indicator for school quality or student success. Some states and local education agencies are using flexibility under this new requirement to develop and track students’ social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. Yet school and district leaders across the Northeast and Islands region—and indeed the nation—are struggling with the task of selecting evidence-based SEL programs and implementing them effectively.

Several prominent research reports point to the important role that family and community partnerships play in successful school-based SEL programs.1,2 These partnerships can play a valuable role in selecting and implementing appropriate SEL programs in schools, can help address historical issues that have marginalized some parents in the educational process,3 and can enhance students’ SEL skills and academic performance.4 Further, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)—a leader in advancing SEL—stresses the importance of coordinating school efforts with parents and the community, since students’ social and emotional development is strongly influenced by the interactions they have outside of school.5

Within the REL Northeast and Islands region, a few states are making family and community partnerships a priority strategy for supporting students’ SEL. Massachusetts, for example, provides guidance on how districts can coordinate and collaborate with community organizations and families in its published SEL implementation guidelines.6

To help education practitioners across the Northeast and Islands better understand the research on this important topic, the Social and Emotional Learning Research Alliance hosted a webinar titled “The Role of Family and Community Partnerships in School-based Social and Emotional Learning Programs.” Over 150 participants joined the webinar from across the country, including those that live in the Northeast region, as well as those that live as far away as Hawaii and the Northern Mariana Islands! The goals for the event were as follows:

  • Present research on family and community engagement in school-based SEL efforts
  • Provide a practitioner’s perspective from the field, as well as lessons learned
  • Offer opportunities for participants to pose questions to researchers and practitioners about the challenges they face engaging families and community partners in SEL

Dr. Laura Hamilton, senior behavioral scientist from the RAND Corporation, kicked off the webinar by presenting findings from “Social and Emotional Learning Interventions Under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence Review.”7 The report, which she co-authored, discusses opportunities for supporting SEL under ESSA and offers a review of SEL programs. After providing a general overview, Hamilton honed in on what the review found related to family and community engagement and presented these four main findings:

  1. ESSA supports SEL programming through several different funding streams. Family and community engagement can be a component of that programming.
  2. Educators have many options for SEL interventions that meet ESSA evidence requirements. Approximately one-third of these interventions have an explicit family/community engagement component.
  3. Family and community engagement typically occurs through one-way communication such as newsletters. Active engagement of family and community organizations is less common.
  4. Developing a robust family/community engagement component is challenging. Practitioners will need support and guidance from organizations like the RELs.

Hamilton also discussed a current project, the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI), a six-year initiative funded by the Wallace Foundation to align and improve SEL practices across school and out-of-school settings.

Next, Tim Luff, assistant superintendent of student services at Natick, MA Public Schools, shared the strategies his district has used to engage families in SEL programming, including forming parent advisory groups and hosting family engagement events. Lastly, practitioners from across the country posed questions to the presenters on a variety of topics, such as strategies for involving community partners in school-based SEL efforts and evidence-based SEL approaches for middle and high schools.

At the end of the webinar, participants provided feedback about the event through an online survey. Their comments included:

  • “I appreciated the sharing of book links, articles, and especially webinar slides . . . I’m looking forward to exploring the resources provided."
  • “It was very helpful that the presenters provided concrete examples of how SEL programs work in their districts.”
  • “As a result of the webinar, we will consider holding a Family Support Night.”

Watch the webinar recording:

View our upcoming events.

Access past REL Northeast & Islands events.

1Fagan, A. A., Hawkins, J. D., & Shapiro, V. B. (2015). Taking SEL to scale in schools: The role of community coalitions. In J. A. Durlak, C. E. Domitrovich, R. P. Weissberg, & T. P. Gullotta (Eds.), Handbook of social and emotional learning: Research and practice (pp. 468–481). New York, NY: Guilford Press. Retrieved on January 22, 2019 from:

2Patrikakou, E. N. (2008). The power of parent involvement: Evidence, ideas, and tools for student success. DePaul University Center on Innovation and Improvement. Retrieved on January 22, 2019 from:

3Dinallo, A. M. (2016). Social and emotional learning with families. Journal of Education and Learning, 5(4), 147. Retrieved on January 22, 2019 from:

4Greenberg, M. T., Domitrovich, C. E., Weissberg, R. P., & Durlak, J. A. (2017). Social and emotional learning as a public health approach to education. Future of Children 27(1), 13–32. Retrieved on January 22, 2019 from:

5Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (2015). CASEL guide: Effective social and emotional learning programs–preschool and elementary school edition. Retrieved on August 9, 2018 from:

6Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (2017). Guidelines on implementing social and emotional learning (SEL) curricula K-12. Retrieved 8/8/18 from Retrieved on January 22, 2019 from:

7Grant, S., Hamilton, L. S., Wrabel, S. L., Gomez, C. J., Whitaker, A., Leschitz, J. T., et al. (2017). Social and emotional learning interventions under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence review. RAND Corporation. Retrieved on January 22, 2019 from: