Key takeaways

  • You can start implementing SEL and using a new SEL solution at any point in the year.
  • Different times of the year bring different pros and cons to beginning SEL implementation.

Beginning to implement new software in a school district without external help, whether isolated or embedded into an existing curriculum, can be a time-consuming task. For this reason, district leaders may believe that they must wait until the start of the school year to start using an SEL program.

However, this is not the case. This blog will outline why there is no ‘bad’ time to begin implementing SEL in schools and that starting at different times of the year can bring different benefits to the implementation process.

Why is there no ‘bad’ time to start implementing SEL?

There’s no ‘bad’ time to start implementing SEL because, in reality, social emotional learning is happening all the time! Although purposeful, considered SEL takes more effort (and is probably going to be more effective), chances are SEL practices are already taking place in your school. Depending on the intensity of your goal with SEL, such as whether you’d like to embed it into existing curriculums or implement it via specialized classes, the migration from ‘accidental’ SEL to purposeful can vary in magnitude. However, it’ll still give you that starting boost that will ultimately help with your overall goal.

Additionally, there is no bad time for students to develop their social emotional skills, even if they’re only months away from their high school graduation. Research does show that SEL is most effective when taught from a young age, but that doesn’t mean it is not effective for older students, too. If time is of the essence in your district, consider using an SEL solution to help you begin monitoring and improving students’ SEL skills as soon as possible. Even better is to find a solution that offers speedy onboarding!

Satchel Pulse's SEL Solution

So when should I start implementing SEL?

In short: whenever is best for your school or district.

The longer answer is that although there’s no ‘bad’ time, there are benefits to starting the process at different points in the year. Niles Middle School (Ohio), for example, began using our Skills tool in December 2021. Their adaptation to the platform was “almost immediate” and quickly gave them the clear insights and “great data” that they needed to support their students. The benefit for a school that begins screening SEL in the winter is that by springtime, they will have good growth metrics to work off of in the last stretch of the school year. Oftentimes districts will use the wintertime to do a benchmark screener, which will support their second screener in the spring. 

Additionally, starting later on in the first or second semester means that educators will have had time to get back into the swing of things, especially if they’ve had longer to get accustomed to any new SEL platforms. For this, make sure that your new platforms offer great customer support: Niles Middle School notes that with our solution, “there was always somebody that could help” and that they were “pleasantly surprised during the onboarding process that it was all done” for them.

two women talking

One point to note, however, is that in the build-up to the festive season, students may be high-energy and excitable. This is especially true for younger students, and will likely be reflected in their self-regulation and self-awareness assessments. Furthermore, there may be different levels of emotions upon the return to school from winter break.

Bringing new SEL implementation slightly forward, such as in October, can be valuable, too. That’s what Dodge County Schools (Georgia) did, where our Skills platform was integrated throughout four schools in October 2021. They’d implemented SEL before, but this was their first time using an “all-in-one solution” that put an end to their Excel spreadsheets where they had to piece all the data together themselves. The benefit of using a new SEL platform in the fall is that it means your students and staff can hit the ground running near the start of the term, and set the scene for the rest of the school year. It also means that should you run into any issues, either with the platform or with SEL itself, you can get those issues resolved with customer support as soon as possible in the year. “Support is the main thing,” Dodge County Schools believes, who called Satchel Pulse’s support “phenomenal”. However, there is a negative side to starting with a new SEL platform in October, as completing a fall screener may not be the most accurate way to judge student growth, given how common it is for students to lose skill levels over the summer. Assess the impact of the summer slide year-on-year in your district before screening in the fall.

Another option is, of course, to begin in the spring. However, if you do begin at this time, it would mean that it wouldn’t be possible to measure growth until the fall because of summer break. An alternative is to use a spring screener as a test run to help students and staff get used to the platform and the screening process. Whether you do a small pilot at this time or a full rollout, your students will still benefit from the efforts to develop their social emotional skills. Starting in the spring means that, by the new school year, your staff will understand how to use the platform, and you will have ready-made insights to work from in the fall.

In conclusion, there’s no ‘bad’ time to implement SEL in your district. Starting with a new SEL platform at different times of the year will bring different advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before you start. However, using an SEL platform with expert customer service, supportive onboarding, and an easy-to-use platform will help your district regardless of the time of year.

Read the case studies

Interested in what Nile Middle School and Dodge County Schools had to say about Satchel Pulse Skills? Read more by clicking on the links below.

Niles Middle School Case Study

Dodge County Schools Case Study


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Author: Fern Dinsdale

Posted: 07 Nov 2022

Estimated time to read: 5 mins

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