Implementation Cohort: Learning Differences and Social Emotional Learning – Digital Promise

Implementation Cohort: Learning Differences and Social Emotional Learning


GCEN developed a series of learning opportunities to share and apply effective global practices to transform education for students with learning differences and to ensure healthy social emotional development for all students. The goal was to use collaborative networked learning strategies proven effective in the past to build the knowledge of key decision makers and catalyze systemic changes within a group of American and international school districts serving diverse and high poverty communities.

The impetus of the work was to assist district systems in addressing the extensive social emotional learning (SEL) and mental health needs of students brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ultimate aim was to promote greater equity for our most marginalized students and to ensure all students are well prepared for college, careers, and informed, active citizenship in a global era.

The Digital Promise Implementation Cohort (formerly “Working Group”) on Learning Differences and Social Emotional Learning focused on the design of an effective system. We acknowledged that the school context is critical, but that schools are embedded within the larger education system. Therefore the overarching goals of the cohort were:

  • To collaboratively develop knowledge drawn from working group cities and elsewhere on effective systems approaches to SEL;
  • To use this knowledge to plan and develop an agenda and action plan for innovation and systemic improvements in their SEL systems; and
  • To disseminate knowledge on effective policies and practices generated by the working group, including insights on “how cities learn” to adapt best practices to their context.


This 18-month project, which began in January 2021, joined together members of the Global Cities Education Network with ten American school district teams from the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. Together, these 15 teams investigated international best practices via deep learning experiences in Surrey, Canada, and Melbourne, Australia, sharing their own challenges and failures; formulating action plans; and ultimately, adapting best practices to improve the SEL systems in their jurisdictions.


Assessment and SEL

Choosing an SEL Assessment System:

SEL Assessment Programs:

Implementation Tools


An Initial Guide to Leveraging the Power of Social and Emotional Learning As You Prepare to Reopen and Renew Your School Community
by CASEL, May 2020

CASEL Cares: SEL Resources During COVID-19
Resources gathered by CASEL

Reunite, Renew, Thrive: SEL Roadmap for Reopening Schools
by CASEL, July 2020

Supporting School Community Wellness with Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) During and After a Pandemic
(packed with resources) by Christina Cipriano et al, PSU Issue Brief, August 2020

Equity and SEL

Why We Can’t Afford Whitewashed Social-Emotional Learning
by Dena Simmons, ASCD Education Update, April 2019

Learning Differences/Special Ed and SEL

Educating All Learners During the COVID-19 Disaster: A Resource Database.
Educating All Learners website.

Special Ed Students Have Lost Many Services. Here’s How SEL Strategies Can Help. (3 part series)
by Christina Cipriano and Gabrielle Rappolt-Schlichtmann, EdSurge, June 2020

Systemic SEL Resources

Systemic Social and Emotional Learning: Promoting Educational Success for All Preschool to High School Students
by Joseph L. Mahoney et al, American Psychological Association, 2020

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