Collaborative Leadership

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Just as social, emotional, behavioral, and well-being skills are most effective when intertwined with academic content and standards, a highly collaborative leadership culture leverages the strengths and input of staff members, students, parents, and business and community partners while building positive working relationships and enthusiasm for change.

Establishing a collaborative and mutually respectful climate and culture is essential for effective implementation as well as ongoing sustainability. When staff and students are empowered and encouraged with opportunities that foster agency, they can lead activities, share needs, and offer insight into the health and well-being of their learning environments.

The CASEL Collaborating Districts Initiative, a multi-district effort started in 2011, suggests some ideas for implementation:

  • embedding SEL in strategic plans, budgets, and hiring practices;
  • making time for explicit SEL instruction using vetted curriculum;
  • developing SEL standards;
  • integrating the work into curriculum and instruction in the core subjects;
  • implementing professional learning that strengthens adults’ SEL skills and instructional abilities;
  • communicating clearly about SEL infusion to all stakeholders;
  • investing in a dedicated SEL team that rolls out the effort in a way that’s right for each school; and
  • reinforcing that SEL skills are a high priority by demonstrating in every leadership action:
    • listening carefully;
    • respecting diversity; and
    • solving problems compassionately.

Leading a student health and well-being initiative has immense individual and collective benefits, but it cannot be done by one individual alone. In Future Ready Schools®, all staff members take ownership of the building and district culture, as well as their influence on it. Involving staff, students, and stakeholders early and often is not only a determining factor in successful implementation, it also ensures an effective communication strategy and yields timely demonstration and measurement of outcomes.

Highlighted Resources


Implementation Guides


become dependent on adult-driven procedures and routines rather than their own skills and motivation. To deliver the education all students deserve—one that prepares them for the lives they choose—the U.S. education system must address the essential elements of student development beyond academics. When students matriculate through K–12 without the skills necessary to engage in learning, they can’t process the vast amount of instruction that comes their way each day and it becomes daunting, if not impossible, to stay on track. This is the achievement gap.

  • What collaborative partnerships must be in place to ensure long-term commitment to health and well-being?
  • What key characteristics have been identified as defining factors of your health and well-being program?
  • Social-emotional learning, health, and well-being, and the corresponding skills, can mean different things to different people. How are you narrowing your focus so that your students’ needs are best met?
  • How are health and well-being focal points communicated and explained to teachers?

Before adding something else to teachers’ plates, articulate what you expect them to do and what will happen as a result.

  • What goals and measurements are in place to track and celebrate system-wide progress?
  • Avoid putting too much emphasis on testing outcomes and traditionally documented data points. Consider establishing SMART goals and an iterative protocol for evaluating the program. Methods like rapid-cycle evaluation allow for agile pivots and course corrections. See the following resources for examples:
  • In what ways can communication and understanding around SEL, health, and well-being be improved?