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Building an Effective Social and Emotional Learning Committee in Dallas

One of Six Case Studies of Schools and Out-of-School-Time Program Partners

​​​​​A Dallas elementary school and its out-of-school-time program formed a social-emotional learning committee that became more effective over time, focusing on daily activities to make social-emotional learning stick.​
September 2022
A committee sits around a round table in discussion.
  • Author(s)
  • Alice Huguet, Heather L. Schwartz, and Catherine H. Augustine
  • Publisher(s)
  • RAND Corporation
Page Count 26 pages


How we did this

Researchers drew on a variety of data for this case study of a partnership between Webster Elementary School in Dallas and its out-of-of-school-time (OST) provider Thriving Minds After School.

Introducing daily rituals, shared terminology among staff, smaller student communities--and an effective steering committee driving it all.

These innovations were crucial to the success of a partnership between Webster Elementary in Dallas and its out-of-school-time (OST) partner, Thriving Minds Afterschool. Its goal: to boost students’ social and emotional learning (SEL).

Those were the findings of this case study, one of a series detailing how schools and OST programs in six communities collaborated to build students’ social and emotional skills.

Part of a Larger Initiative

The communities were participants in Wallace’s Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative. It brought together school districts and their OST partners to develop and put in place SEL activities across learning settings.

Steps to Ensure Sustainability

Webster and Thriving Minds worked together to make SEL sustainable, even in the face of staff turnover and other challenges. They did so by forming an effective steering committee that became the driving force behind their SEL work.

The committee took a variety of steps. They included:

  •  Prioritizing particular strategies to cultivate an SEL-focused climate across campus
  •  Providing training to school and OST program staff members
  •  Monitoring and documenting implementation of these efforts. 

The committee also ensured that staff shared a common terminology to help make new concepts a part of daily life. And it created a system of smaller student-staff communities, called houses, to build camaraderie.


The focus on sustainable social and emotional learning resulted in a variety of school and OST improvements. For example: 

  • Staff members beyond the steering committee began sharing responsibility for SEL on campus. 
  • There were improvements in attendance, school climate, and student behavior. 
  • Short SEL rituals became embedded in the campus’s daily schedule before the onset of the pandemic. That helped ease the transition of SEL to hybrid learning.

As soon as you walked through the door you became a part of a community that really saw you, celebrated culture, and believed that with love and high expectations, we all could become the best versions of ourselves.

— Latrisha McDuffie, SEL specialist, Thriving Minds After School, Webster

Key Takeaways

  • An effective steering committee  was crucial to the partnership’s success.
  • The steering committee oversaw  social and emotional learning (SEL)  implementation. Its goal was to  ensure the program’s sustainability.
  • SEL practices were implemented routinely. That led to improvements in attendance, perceptions of school climate, and student behavior.
  • Crucial innovations included daily rituals, shared terminology among staff, and smaller student communities. 


Timeline of the SEL Committee's work

Materials & Downloads

What We Don't Know

The collaboration took place in a large urban district primarily serving students from historically disadvantaged populations. For that reason, lessons learned may not apply to all elementary schools.

Researchers surveyed Thriving Minds Afterschool instructors each year. But because the number of respondents was less than ten, they were unable to report on this data.

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