As schools prepare to welcome students this month, one of the biggest questions they face is how to best help students and teachers reacclimate to in-person instruction while coping with the stress and trauma of a pandemic.

To address these concerns, many schools will place increased importance on social-emotional learning supports for students and teachers. In an EdWeek Research Center survey conducted in April of 2021, 67 percent of district leaders said they would use at least some of their most recent federal stimulus dollars on SEL. Suburban districts, in particular, indicated they would focus on it, with 81 percent of suburban district leaders responding they would invest stimulus dollars in SEL.

As SEL becomes a top priority for schools, effective evaluation processes will help school leaders know the impact of their SEL programs and be able to adjust strategies as they move forward. Evaluation is a process that allows leaders to collect data and focus on the right supports for teachers and students, and with the Network for Educator Effectiveness, evaluation is a supportive process designed for professional growth.

Cover of NEE's guide Evaluating Teacher & Principal Effectiveness on Indicators of Social-Emotional Learning

To assist schools with their SEL evaluation processes, NEE has published a practice brief on Evaluating Teacher & Principal Effectiveness on Indicators of Social-Emotional Learning. The brief includes the following sections (download the full brief here):

Introduction to SEL

SEL is the deliberate attempt to help students acquire social and emotional skills, sometimes called “non-cognitive” or “soft skills.” They are usually divided into intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. Intrapersonal skills include skills such as self-control, setting goals, and the ability to manage emotions. Interpersonal skills include skills such as getting along with others or prosocial behavior.

SEL is part of a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) and contributes to equity – SEL benefits all students but especially those from low-income communities and those who have experienced trauma.

Preparing to Evaluate SEL

Before evaluating SEL, staff well-being must be addressed. Teachers need to be in a good place mentally and emotionally before they are able to provide effective social-emotional support to students. Another important initial step is a needs assessment to understand readiness for evaluation and which component(s) of SEL would be the most appropriate focus of evaluation.

Selecting NEE Indicators for SEL Evaluation

NEE’s teacher evaluation system includes 39 indicators of effective teaching, but we recommend that schools select just three to five indicators to measure in their evaluation processes. Schools interested in improving SEL may select one or more of the following indicators, which are measured in classroom observations and the NEE Student Survey:

NEE’s primary SEL indicators

  • Indicator 2.4: The teacher promotes the emotional competence of students.
  • Indicator 5.2: The teacher uses effective discipline that promotes self-control.
  • Indicator 5.3: The teacher uses strategies that promote kindness and social competence among students in the classroom community.
  • Indicator 5.3b: The teacher establishes secure teacher-student relationships.

NEE’s related SEL indicators

  • Indicator 1.5: The teacher incorporates diverse social and cultural perspectives on content.
  • Indicator 2.2: The teacher sets and monitors student goals.
  • Indicator 2.6: The teacher incorporates students’ language, culture, family, and community.
  • Indicator 4.3: The teacher employs cooperative learning.
  • Indicator 6.2: The teacher’s communications with students are sensitive to cultural, gender, intellectual, and physical differences.

NEE’s leader indicators related to SEL

  • Indicator 3.1: The principal promotes a positive, caring, inclusive, and supportive school climate for students.
  • Indicator 3.3: The principal promotes equity and cultural inclusiveness.

Using NEE Measures to Evaluate SEL

The NEE teacher evaluation system includes four measures: classroom observations, student surveys, teacher professional development plans, and units of instruction. The NEE principal evaluation system includes four measures: teacher surveys, building improvement plans, principal professional development plans, and building personnel development plans. All measures are available to NEE member schools, and local districts decide which to incorporate in their evaluation processes. The brief discusses all measures and how to implement them within the context of evaluating SEL.

Using NEE Data Tool Reporting Features

The NEE Data Tool online evaluation system provides robust reporting features that can assist schools in focusing on SEL skills. Within the NEE Data Tool, aggregate reports are available that provide a schoolwide understanding of indicators and components of SEL to help inform the decision-making process. These reports include the Indicator Trend Report, the Student Survey Summary Report, and the Teacher Survey Summary Report.

Effective evaluation is the key to helping school leader know which systems and practices the faculty and staff are learning and implementing, and which may need to be clarified or taught further. Effective evaluation is necessary to build an optimal school culture that fully realizes the benefits of social-emotional learning.

The Network for Educator Effectiveness provides comprehensive evaluation resources and services to assist schools in evaluation of their SEL efforts. To learn more, download Evaluating Teacher & Principal Effectiveness on Indicators of Social-Emotional Learning.


The Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE) is a simple yet powerful comprehensive system for educator evaluation that helps educators grow, students learn, and schools improve. Developed by preK-12 practitioners and experts at the University of Missouri, NEE brings together classroom observation, student feedback, teacher curriculum planning, and professional development as measures of effectiveness in a secure online portal designed to promote educator growth and development.