Whitepaper: Selecting Assessments and Programs to Support High-Quality SEL for Youth and Adults

While research has shown that social-emotional learning (SEL) increases positive social behavior and academic success, student outcomes vary greatly based on the programs that schools adopt and implement.

As with any program or curriculum adoption, it’s important to closely review and evaluate SEL programs to make sure they fit the unique needs of your school or district, as well as all key stakeholders.

This whitepaper covers:

  • Key characteristics of an effective adult and youth SEL program
  • How to use universal SEB screening data to support equity
  • Tools that can guide the development of social-emotional competencies for youth and adults
  • The importance of systematic SEL

About the Authors


Tricia Maas, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Committee for Children

Dr. Maas is a Senior Research Scientist at Committee for Children where she leads research for the organization’s Second Step® SEL for Adults and Second Step® Out-of-School Time programs. Prior to her career in research, Tricia taught high school math in Charlotte, NC and San Jose, CA. Tricia holds an MA in Education Policy from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Education Policy from the University of Washington.


Nathaniel von der Embse, Ph.D., NCSP, Associate Professor, University of South Florida

Nathaniel P. von der Embse, Ph.D., is an associate professor of school psychology at the University of South Florida. Dr. von der Embse serves as an associate editor for the Journal of School Psychology, and his research interests include universal screening for behavioral and mental health, teacher stress and student test anxiety, and training educators in population-based mental health services. He received the 2018 Lightner Witmer Award for early-career scholarship from Division 16 of the American Psychological Association. He is one of the authors of the Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener (SAEBRS) assessment suite and is an author and behavior team member with FastBridge.


Sherri Widen, Ph.D., Manager of Research, Committee for Children

Dr. Widen's expertise is the development of children’s concepts of emotions and social-emotional skills. In 2013, she transitioned from basic research in psychology to more applied research in education settings with a focus on increasing children’s social-emotional skills to support their academic outcomes. Sherri has been the Manager of Research at Committee for Children since 2018 where she contributes to readership and thought leadership on the Second Step social-emotional learning classroom intervention and on products to support families to engage in social-emotional learning at home. Sherri holds an MA in developmental psychology from the University of British Columbia and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Boston College.


Mylien T. Duong, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Committee for Children

Dr. Mylien Duong is Senior Research Scientist at the Committee for Children, a non-profit organization that develops social emotional learning (SEL) programs for school-based settings. With support from the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and private foundations, her research focuses on developing and evaluating interventions that promote social-emotional and academic success and prevent and treat mental health problems. She believes that every child deserves the opportunity to excel and thrive, and that access to opportunity should not be determined at birth. Her aim is to develop empirically-supported interventions that are responsive to the needs of ethnic and economic minority youth. Even the most effective interventions cannot benefit children and adolescents if they are not implemented. She aims to develop interventions that are brief, that fit within the routines and rituals of schools, and that can be delivered by personnel without specialized mental health training.


Stephen Kilgus, Ph.D., Associate Professor of School Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Kilgus is Associate Professor in the School Psychology Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where his research primarily relates to social-emotional and behavioral assessment. His work has resulted in the development of evidence-based assessment procedures, as well as the validation of tools for universal screening, problem analysis, and progress monitoring. Dr. Kilgus has authored and contributed to the development of a number of assessments, including the SAEBRS screener and Direct Behavior Ratings (DBRs). He currently serves as a principal investigator on a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) regarding the validation of the Intervention Selection Profile (ISP), a suite of tools to inform the selection and modification of Tier 2 targeted interventions. Dr. Kilgus is also researching the development and evaluation of Tier 2 targeted interventions.

Download the Whitepaper