Integrated Multi-tiered System of Support Approach for Social Emotional Leaning


The Integrated Multi-Tiered System of Support Approach for Social Emotional Learning framework was codeveloped by the OPI and local education agencies and other stakeholders including Montana teachers, school administrators, counselors, content area specialists, and caregivers. The OPI’s multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) serves as the framework for implementation. 

 

SEL Infographic

 

Foundational Areas for Implementing School-based SEL 

These foundational areas for implementing school-based SEL are guided by research and best-practice recommendations as well as the experiences of Montana school staff and educators who have contributed their experiences in implementing SEL to this work.

The foundational areas are intended to help schools establish a strong foundation to maximize the potential benefits school-based SEL has to offer and can be used by schools who are just beginning to purposefully implement SEL, or are looking for ways to strengthen the SEL work already taking place. Many of these foundational areas are interrelated and schools are encouraged to develop processes that weave together multiple foundational area strategies.

 

Click an icon below to start learning about the foundational areas for implementing school-based SEL.

 

Establish Foundational Support and Plan

Honor and Elevate Youth Voice

Strengthen Adult Trauma-informed Restorative SEL Competencies and Capacity

Implement Equitable School-wide Trauma-informed Restorative SEL Approaches

Create Partnerships to Strengthen Family, Tribal and Community Engagement

Collect and Share Data on Continuous Improvement

Tools and Resources for Communicating about SEL

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Establish Foundational Support and Plan

Establish Foundational Support and Plan graphicAs schools work to maximize the benefits of school-based SEL through a school-wide, systematic approach it is important schools take the steps to establish the necessary foundational support and plan. Research has shown the necessity of a strong foundation and school climate supportive of SEL in order to achieve desired SEL goals. Without establishing a supportive school climate, the effectiveness of SEL strategies will always be limited. Building a foundational support will provide a strong starting point for building momentum towards achieving SEL goals. The other foundational areas for implementing school-based SEL can help to establish a shared level of understanding of school-based SEL and create a shared vision for implementing SEL strategies, and build an environment where SEL is modeled and supported.   


Careful planning and collaboration will (1) create a shared vision and goals to guide SEL work within the school and among school partners; (2) ensure the best use of existing resources and identify resource gaps; (3) ensure the selection of sustainable, evidence-based and promising practice strategies; and (4) help generate buy-in and increase readiness to implement SEL practices across the school system and greater community. In all planning processes, schools are encouraged to utilize a multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) approach to meet the varying levels of SEL needs among student groups (see Collect and Share Data on Continuous Improvement). As schools establish foundational supports and create SEL plans they are encouraged to review the other foundational areas and select strategies that can simultaneously meet multiple recommendations.  

Resources for School Administrators

CASEL Build Foundational Support and Plan- This resources provides step-by-step guidance on building foundational support to implement school-wide SEL including building an SEL team, creating foundational learning, and establishing two-way communication. 

CASEL Guide to Schoolwide Social and Emotional Learning- This resource provides an intentional and collaborative SEL planning and implementation process for school leaders at the beginning phases of planning or implementing school-wide SEL. 

CASEL Integrate Student Supports with Schoolwide SEL: This resource provides guidance on how to use the multi-tiered system of support model to guide planning and selection of SEL strategies. 

Harvard Explore SEL Lab: This online tools helps compare various SEL models based on six outcome domains (cognitive, emotion, social, values, perspectives, identity) to help identify what models/programs may best align with the goals and priorities of your school and community.  

Resources for Classroom Teachers and School Staff

CASEL Where to start?- CASEL recommends teachers and school staff begin with familiarizing themselves with schoolwide SEL. Check out this resource to learn more.

Resources for Caregivers and Community Organizations

CASEL Out-of-School Time Tools- These site provides tools for community organizations to plan and implement sitewide SEL including indicators of sitewide SEL.

Montana After School Alliance Activity Guides- Many of the guides featured on this page build social and emotional skills through activities that strengthen empathy, foster greater social awareness, support emotional well-being, and more. You can also search for out-of-school programs to build partnerships using the Montana Afterschool Database.  

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Honor and Elevate Youth Voice and Engagement

Honor and Elevate Youth Voice and Engagement graphicSchools that honor and elevate youth voice and engagement use student perspectives and experiences to shape the ways schools operate to support student learning. Unless youth voice is gathered, schools may never have an accurate perception of the relationships that are crucial to effective school-based SEL: student relationships with teachers, relationships with peers, and relationships with academic content. Once school staff begin to understand the perspectives and experiences of students they can honor and elevate the voice of youth by incorporating youth voice into SEL policies and procedures (and many other aspects of school life).

Youth voice and youth engagement in planning and implementing SEL activities will help ensure the SEL activities implemented will positively resonate with the students who will be the most affected by the strategies. Encouraging youth to voice their thoughts, opinions, and participate in collaborative decision making with school staff in developmentally appropriate ways is also a SEL practice that will build student SEL skills. Honoring and elevating youth voice and engagement also requires good SEL modeling by adults who must display active listening, empathy, collaborative problem solving and other SEL skills required to build trusting relationships with students.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Strengthen Adult Trauma-Informed Restorative Practice SEL Competencies and Capacity

Strengthen Adult Trauma-Informed Restorative Practice SEL Competencies and Capacity graphicStudent SEL skill growth occurs when SEL is delivered and supported by caring, trusted adults. This necessitates good SEL modeling by adults and dedication to strengthening adult SEL capacity across all settings. As schools develop school wide SEL implementation plans, adult SEL must also be considered. CASEL (2021) recommends strengthening adult SEL through activities in three areas of focus:

  1. Learn: Support staff in reflecting on personal social and emotional competencies and developing capacity for supporting SEL in their peers and students (CASEL, 2021)  
  2. Collaborate: Set up structures such as professional learning communities or peer mentoring for staff to collaborate on how to hone their strategies for promoting schoolwide SEL (CASEL, 2021) 
  3. Model: Support staff in modeling SEL competencies, mindsets, and skills throughout the school community with students, students’ families, community partners, and one another (CASEL, 2021)

Examples of strengthening adult SEL may include (CASEL, 2019):   

  • Strengthen school leader’s and decision-maker’s understanding of SEL and the benefits of school-based SEL (the OPI has developed SEL handouts that can be used for this purpose). 
  • Like student SEL, schools should consider gauging the current SEL competency of school staff (see Collect and Share Data on Continuous Improvement) and develop ways to build adult SEL capacity through high-quality professional development. 
  • Offer professional development which includes information on SEL and also on cultural competence and topics that will help deepen school staff’s understanding of the lived experiences of their students. In Montana, this type of educator professional development is supported through Indian Education for All and other professional development focusing on students with unique needs, such as special education and children who have experienced trauma
  • Build staff trust, community, and collective efficacy by providing opportunity to develop shared goals and leveraging the unique skills and knowledge everyone has to offer to work towards goals.    

Resources for School Administrators

Strengthen Adult SEL- CASEL Guide to Schoolwide SEL: Additional information on building social emotional skills in adults 

Resources for Classroom Teachers

 

Resources for Caregivers and Community Organizations

ParentingMontana.org- Growing strong social and emotional skills is a three-generation approach with the potential for broad impact. ParentingMontana.org seeks to grow the social and emotional skills of children and their parents. Research shows that a child with strong social and emotional skills develops into an adult with similar skills. These skills as an adult will foster the healthy development of the next generation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Implement Equitable School-wide Trauma-informed Restorative SEL Approaches

Implement Equitable School-wide Trauma-informed Restorative SEL Approaches graphicSEL can be a powerful lever for creating caring, just, inclusive, and healthy communities that support all individuals in reaching their fullest potential. -CASEL, 2021

When implemented universally, SEL promotes academic equity, meaning all students regardless of location, socioeconomic status, gender, race, and other differences, are provided with equal opportunities to thrive in the school setting (CASEL, 2021). To maximize the potential of achieving academic equity through SEL, schools must take purposeful steps to ensure (CASEL, 2021):

  • SEL is inclusive of all students, their values, lived experiences and culture; SEL honors and values the diversity of all students and communities. 
  • Meaningful SEL is provided to all students across the entire school system and across all tiers for the MTSS model. 
  • SEL builds student and adult competencies to enable all members of the school and community to meaningfully participate and contribute to the dialog and decision-making processes. 
  • Authentic relationships between schools, students, families and community members are in place and used to inform SEL strategies in school and out-of-school.  

 

SEL and restorative practices can be used to intentionally build equitable learning environments and improve school climate and  help foster trusting and supportive relationships (CASEL, 2020). Restorative practices utilize and build SEL in proactive or responsive ways (CASEL, 2020):

  • Proactive restorative practices: practices that proactively build healthy relationships and develop community.
  • Responsive practices: practices that respond to conflict and wrongdoing with the goal of repairing harm, rebuilding relationships, and restoring community.

Resources for School Administrators

CASEL Integrate Student Supports with Schoolwide SEL: This resource provides guidance on how to use the multi-tiered system of support model to guide planning and selection of SEL strategies. 

Resources for Classroom Teachers

 

Resources for Caregivers and Community Organizations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Create Partnerships to Strengthen Family, Tribal and Community Engagement

Partnerships to Strengthen Family, Tribal and Community Engagement graphicSEL occurs wherever people spend time, including time spent with families/caregivers and in the community. Forming strong partnerships between schools, tribes, and community organizations has many benefits and school-based SEL will be more effective if it aligns with local values and is supported by a wide range of stakeholders. SEL is most effective when students are given the opportunity to practice SEL skills outside of the classroom and observe adults and peers model desirable social and emotional skills.

Strong, authentic partnerships with two-way communication in the planning, implementation, and continual improvement of SEL is key to creating the engagement necessary to support SEL skill development.

Family and Caregiver Engagement

Those who care for youth are the greatest stakeholders in their development and often the greatest influencers on SEL skill development. Most often, families and caregivers provide the earliest and most consistent, ongoing social interactions with students. For these reasons, it’s crucial that schools develop authentic partnerships with families and caregivers.

Of note is the importance of defining family and kinship ties in ways that are reflective of the student population. Local definitions of family and kinship should always be observed in a school’s family engagement policies and local definitions of family are implied here, in this guidance. The following steps have been guided by CASEL’s steps for creating family partnerships and have been adapted with guidance from Montana school staff who have successfully fostered strong family engagement within a school.  

  1. Review current engagement strategies: All schools have policies in place which guide how they communicate and partner with families. Schools can review the effectiveness of these policies by gauging their current level of family/caregiver engagement and identifying what barriers may exist for families/caregivers to engage with schools.  
  2. Develop strategies for two-way communication with families/caregivers: The input of families/caregivers is essential for establishing and sustaining school-based SEL. Once equitable, two-way communication is established, schools are encouraged to engage in continued collaboration. Families/caregivers should be continually informed about SEL plans and progress and be empowered to contribute to achieving co-developed SEL goals.
  3. Develop strategies for on-going engagement and partnership development: Schools can develop a plan for ongoing engagement to continually strengthen partnership with families/caregivers. This can include organizing outreach to families/caregivers who are new to the school/community and to families/caregivers who may have difficulty engaging in ways others can (e.g. evening work schedules).
  4. Increase equitable engagement by purposefully working to eliminate inherent power dynamics: Families and caregivers will feel more encouraged to collaborate with schools if they feel they are able to equitably engage. As decision makers, school staff, especially school administrators, possess power that can create a barrier to families and caregivers feeling like they have equal voice in collaborative goal setting and strategizing. Schools should consider ways to increase equitable engagement by:
  • Using common, understandable language in their communications with families and caregivers
  • Working with all members of a student’s family and others who care for a student and are invested in the welfare of a student and including them in the decision-making process
  • Ensuring the space where engagement takes place is one that lends itself towards equity (e.g. setting up a circle of chairs in the library vs. meeting in an office where an administrator sits behind his or her desk)      

For more information, please visit CASEL’s Family and Community Partnerships Process page and the OPI’s Family and Community Engagement page.

Tribal Engagement

Montana is home to eight sovereign tribal nations comprised of twelve distinct tribes. American Indian students reside across the state, attending schools that are on and off Montana’s seven reservations. Each tribe has its own unique culture, history, and strengths that should be considered when meaningfully engaging with tribal governments and tribal communities.

Many elements of traditional tribal culture and indigenous ways of knowing incorporate what is described in this guide as SEL. As with working with any community, forming an understanding of the local community’s cultural values, interpretations of SEL, and SEL goals will help schools understand the beneficial SEL activities already taking place within the community. Tribal community-based SEL practices may look different from strategies outlined in academic literature or may look very similar. Regardless of their familiarity with SEL practices featured in the available literature and resources tribal community-based SEL practices rooted in culture and traditions are powerful tools well positioned to assist all students and school staff in social and emotional skills development. This creates a uniquely advantageous opportunity for Montana schools. By taking the time to understand these existing practices, schools can create opportunities to bridge understanding between the school and the tribal community and leverage the strengths each has to offer towards strengthening SEL.

To begin this process, or expand on existing relationships between the school and the tribe, members of the OPI’s American Indian Student Achievement and Tribal Relations and Resiliency units provided the following recommendations:

  • Get to know the tribal community: Each tribal community, even those located on the same reservation, is unique. Schools are encouraged to take the time to get to know the community they are working in and the families of the students attending their schools. Specifically, take the time to understand the history of the relationship between the school and the community. 
  • Value and invest in relationships: Relationships, in their most simple form, are the key to supporting students and their families. Provide continued opportunity for meaningful exchange with genuine value placed on the input and viewpoints of the tribal government and community.
  • Take the time to involve as many people as you can: Reach out to all those who care for youth in the community; each person will have something meaningful to contribute.
  • Recognize shared goals despite differences in terminology: Recognize the terms and language used to describe SEL are often not used outside of the school setting. Tribes and tribal community members are very knowledgeable and invested in promoting the wellness of youth, including social and emotional skill development, but may not use the same terminology a school uses to describe their hopes and strategies. Take the time to bridge differences in language and terminology and provide opportunity for two-way listening and learning.
  • Operate from a strength-based approach: The strengths of tribal communities are self-evident. While many cultural practices and indigenous ways of knowing have yet to be featured in the SEL literature these practices and knowledge-base are nonetheless effective and continue to serve as a strength-based approach to SEL. Schools are encouraged to identify practices already being implemented in the community and adopt these methods into the school setting. Tribal community members also serve as resource and ally in achieving co-constructed SEL goals.          

Meaningful relationships between schools and tribes benefit everyone, especially American Indian students. Schools are encouraged to reference the OPI’s Guidance on Facilitating Local Educational Agency Requests for Effective Tribal Consultation for more information and guidance on tribal consultation and partnership development that is required by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and encouraged by the OPI for supporting American Indian students and families.   

Community Engagement

Interactions and relationships outside of the school setting contribute to the development of SEL skills and provide opportunities to practice and reinforce these skills. The guidance outlined in the Tribal Engagement section is directly applicable to strategies a school should consider when engaging with a community and community organizations. Additional guidance for community engagement is outlined below.

  • Identify organizations or groups (formal and informal) operating within your community that contribute to the social and emotional development of students outside of the school setting. Some of these organizations may already be implementing explicit SEL strategies and others may be well positioned to do so. Identify organizations already working with the school and those where relationships can be built. In Montana, SEL standards are included within the Montana Early Learning Standards which guide the work of early childhood professionals who provide services to children from birth to age five. Engaging organizations that serve children in their earliest years can be beneficial to creating school-based SEL strategies that leverage the work being done within early childhood settings that have adopted these standards.    
  • Develop strategies for on-going two-way communication with community organizations who are current or potential school partners.
  • Work with community partners to identify common SEL goals and align strategies to support those goals wherever possible.
  • Provide opportunities for co-training with school staff and community organizations and other stakeholders (e.g. families/caregivers).

For more information, please visit CASEL’s Family and Community Partnerships Process page and the OPI’s Family and Community Engagement page.

Resources for School Administrators

CASEL SEL Discussion Series for Parents and Caregivers: This discussion guide serves as a tool to support schools and community partners that wish to engage parents and caregivers in collaborative efforts towards social and emotional growth of students and families. 

Harvard Explore SEL Lab: This online tools helps compare various SEL models based on six outcome domains (cognitive, emotion, social, values, perspectives, identity) to help identify what models/programs may best align with the goals and priorities of your school and community.  

OPI Guidance on Facilitating Local Education Agency Requests for Effective Tribal Consultation: Best practice guidance developed by the OPI Tribal Relations and Resiliency Unit for effective tribal consultation.   

Resources for Classroom Teachers

 

Resources for Caregivers and Community Organizations

CASEL SEL Discussion Series for Parents and Caregivers: This discussion guide serves as a tool to support schools and community partners that wish to engage parents and caregivers in collaborative efforts towards social and emotional growth of students and families. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Collect and Share Data on Continuous Improvement

 

Collect and Share Data on Continuous Improvement graphicMeasure what you care about.

The Integrated Multi-tiered System of Support Approach for Social Emotional Learning displays the importance of data as an interrelated component with systems and practices to producing desired outcomes. Delivering SEL through a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) helps ensure the varying levels of student SEL needs are being met to the best of the school’s ability. Data on student SEL skill development can be used to identify current skill competencies and inform the Tier 1 (Universal) strategies that are most likely to build SEL skills across all student groups and the additional strategies necessary in Tier 2 and Tier 3 to create equitable opportunities for student to develop and master SEL skills.

Data-based Decision-Making

Data-based decision-making requires that data are timely, valid, reliable, accurate and reviewed in ongoing cycles. The roles and responsibilities for data-based decision making within the system are clearly defined and executed. Using a data-based decision-making process shifts the work of school leadership teams from a reactive or crisis driven process to a pro-active, outcomes driven process, and sets the stage for continuous improvement. Data analysis allows for evidence to guide decision making for both the effectiveness of the system and for the needs of all students. Visit the OPI’s webpage for more information on data-based decision making

SEL Screeners and School Climate Surveys

School-wide SEL screeners are tools schools can use to measure baseline SEL skills and development overtime. SEL has a bidirectional relationship with school climate: the climate of a school will foster or hinder SEL skill development and the SEL skills of students and school staff will directly contribute to the climate of a school. School climate surveys are a great way to measure the manifestation of the SEL strategies schools implement. They are also a great tool for gathering youth voice.

Existing screening data may also be available to inform SEL strategies and measure SEL strategy outcomes. This data may come from within or outside of the school. For example, schools routinely gather academic data and may be gathering other child wellness measures (e.g. Youth Risk Behavior Survey) and school measure (teacher satisfaction and retention) throughout the year. Within a community, many childcare establishments, including Head Start programs, and some healthcare practitioners use screening tools to measure SEL and other child development benchmarks. Due to the multitude of potential benefits of SEL implementation, schools are encouraged to use a variety of data sources to inform SEL decision making and track outcomes. Visit the OPI’s webpage for more information on comprehensive screening and assessment.

Sharing Data

By sharing data with stakeholders, schools can create opportunities for shared celebrations when goals are achieved and create opportunities for collaborative strategizing for continuous improvement using shared information. These practices can help build collective efficacy towards meeting shared SEL goals and helps ensure everyone is operating from a point of shared understanding. Visit the OPI’s webpage for more information on collaborative teams.   

Benefits of Universal School-based Screening and Surveys

Guide continuous improvement planning: Schools use SEL screening and school climate data to measure effectiveness of SEL strategies and student learning. This data can also inform resource vetting and allocation, professional development needs, and implementation of new instructional strategies. Continuous improvement planning often happens best when the community is involved in contributing to and understanding screening and survey data and the plan itself.

Inform multi-tiered system of support (MTSS): SEL screening and school climate survey provides data essential to an MTSS framework approach to student growth. Delivering SEL through a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) helps ensure the varying levels of student SEL needs are being met to the best of the school’s ability. Data on student SEL skill development can be used to identify current skill competencies and inform the Tier 1 (Universal) strategies that are most likely to build SEL skills across all student groups and the additional strategies necessary in Tier 2 and Tier 3 to create equitable opportunities for students to develop and master SEL skills.

Improve relationships, relevance, and rigor: Educators know the importance of positive peer and adult/student relationships when it comes to learning. SEL screening and school climate survey data quickly provide teachers with crucial, normed, comparative information that might not be readily apparent without formal measurements. When built on a foundation of high-quality data, relationships, relevance and rigor improve.

SEL screening and school climate survey helps schools identify at-risk students and improve pro-social skills so they are better equipped to engage in meaningful, positive relationships with peers and adults. SEL screening also helps schools focus on actual problems students are experiencing in the here and now, improving relevance. When students possess the prerequisite SEL skills, they are better equipped to learn at high levels.

Encourage proactive strategies: SEL screening helps schools identify students at risk of developing SEL problems. When schools can identify these at-risk students, they can offer interventions that build skills and prevent students from lagging further behind or developing a mental illness. School climate data also helps teams identify areas needing improvement. SEL screening and school climate data allow schools to move from a “wait to fail” model to a prevention and early intervention model.

Promote prosocial behavior: When schools review SEL screening and school climate data, they are better able to focus on teaching relevant pro-social behaviors that leads to improved mental health and academic outcomes and school climate and culture. Both sets of data shed light on the strengths and needs of schools and are key to increasing positive behaviors.

Resources for School Administrators

 

Resources for Classroom Teachers

 

Resources for Caregivers and Community Organizations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Tools and Resources for Communicating about SEL

 

Tools and Resources for Communicating about SEL graphicSocial Emotional Learning One-Pagers: