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Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Virginia’s Definition of SEL

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) established a uniform definition of social emotional learning based on the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) definition. Virginia defines social emotional learning as:

“The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

Harmony logo. Social & Emotional Learning
Second Step Middle School logo

Social emotional learning begins at home and continues through adulthood. Embedding SEL intentionally in school culture advances the work that begins and continues at home.

In accordance with HB 753, passed during the 2020 Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) established a uniform definition of social-emotional learning and developed the Virginia Guidance SEL Standards for all public students in grades Kindergarten through 12 in the Commonwealth. The Virginia Social Emotional (SEL) Guidance Standards (PDF) are now available to all Virginia school divisions. While the 2020 General Assembly required the VDOE to develop the guidance standards for SEL, Virginia school divisions are not required to adopt them. Local school boards may choose to adopt all, or portions of, the Virginia SEL Guidance Standards as part of their own local policies, and/or use them as guidance as they implement SEL programming based on the needs of their community. HCPS is currently reviewing the standards and plans to make a recommendation related to adoption during the spring of 2022. Please visit the VDOE SEL webpage for additional information.

Resource Board from the VDOE


Sanford Harmony, currently named “Harmony,” was adopted as the elementary SEL curriculum in the spring of 2019, with initial implementation during the 2019-20 school year. Harmony is an evidence-based program that includes 3 components: Meet-Up, Buddy-Up and Lessons. This provides classroom community building, peer relationships, and direct instruction on SEL core competencies. Harmony lessons are delivered weekly during morning meeting time. Harmony in action video.

The Second Step middle school SEL curriculum was also formally adopted for students during the 2019-20 school year, but full implementation did not occur until 2020-21. Second Step lessons are provided weekly during Advisory. In addition to the lessons, the Second Step curriculum also offers class and community challenges, advisory activities and topics for class meetings. Second Steps lessons are delivered weekly during Advisory.

All high school students have received locally developed SEL lessons aligned to CASEL core competencies weekly throughout the current school year. Initially, the high schools were to provide 9 weeks of direct instruction and then move toward incorporation of SEL signature practices into each class period but due to overwhelming requests from students, teachers, and administrators, additional lessons were provided to supplement weekly instruction throughout the year. These lessons were provided weekly during Academic Enrichment time.

 Pre-KElementary K-5Middle 6-8High 9-12
CASEL Aligned Curriculum or LessonsPATHS CurriculumHarmony CurriculumSecond Step CurriculumHCPS Locally Developed Lessons & CASEL Signature Practices