Using SEL as a Starting Point to Promote Equity Across Districts

Source: Achievement Network

Source: Achievement Network

As an educator, you’ve likely seen the image to the right, perhaps in school or a professional development, with fans on boxes watching a baseball game. The redistribution of the boxes, which allow the fans to see the game, help compare equity and equality.

Regardless of your role or relation to the current education system, I hope you take away that equity is much more than just moving boxes. Establishing equity may seem overwhelming, but there are some simple steps you can implement to begin establishing a more equitable environment in your school or district.

Ongoing Growth and Transformation


The image of the fans redistributing the boxes can provide a false indication of equity. Equity is not just redistributing of resources and checking boxes, then voila! You’re done and your classroom, school or district is equitable! Equity is an ongoing transformation and process. Just as you might work out and eat healthy to maximize your energy and nutrition, once achieved you cannot stop and expect your positive results to indefinitely remain.

At its core, equity is fair and impartial treatment and access to receive what is needed, regardless of education, race, gender, income, disability, ethnicity, language, or family background. Similarly, educational equity is the right to access educational resources and rigor, regardless of education, race, gender, income, disability, ethnicity, language, or family background. Students in the United States have the right to a free and public education. Educational equity expands on this to include the right to a rigorous education.

Easy and Impactful

While educational equity is an ongoing process that requires dedication from all stakeholders, there are simple strategies you can implement today. For example, pulling student names on popsicle sticks to call on students, removes bias and ensures all students have the opportunity to contribute in class. Prioritizing trainings, developing materials, and implementing curriculum that are culturally responsive and diverse. Updating district-wide disciplinary policies and procedures to be fair, trauma-informed, culturally sensitive, and ensure consistency of implementation. Through developing and practicing social emotional competencies, students and staff will have the capacity to understand and respond to equity. Specifically, SEL supports equitable learning by building the capacity to:

Equity MEigs.PNG
  • Express oneself

  • Demonstrate empathy

  • Make positive decisions

  • Respect differences

  • Build healthy relationships

What’s Next?

Stop waiting and start acting! Keep gathering and disseminating information, utilizing creative social emotional learning strategies to promote equity, and find other ways to incorporate equitable practices in your day-to-day life and planning.

At the 2019 National School Boards Association Equity Symposium, Move This World facilitated a session focusing on the role social emotional learning plays in establishing equity. The attached presentation and handout will provide an overview of equity, social emotional learning, and how to utilize SEL to promote equity. Also, take a look at our white paper, co-authored with Dr. Osher of the American Institutes for Research, “Building Equitable, Safe, and Supportive Schools: Trauma and Culturally Sensitive Practices for Guidance.” This paper will offer practical phases of implementation and ready-to-use resources.

Download the resources below for information and tips on using social emotional learning to support equity in your classroom.

  • Presentation: Creative Social Emotional Learning to Support Educational Equity

  • Handout: Social Emotional Learning and Equity

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