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Leading the Way in Social, Emotional, and Character Development Standards

Maurice J. Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab (, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service (
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In 2012, Kansas became the first state to create and adopt a set of social, emotional, and character development (SECD) standards. These standards have been aligned with the Kansas Common Core Curriculum Standards, College and Career Readiness, 21st century skills, and other state and federal mandates.

The policy, passed by the Kansas Board of Education, is organized around three domains, which I summarize below along with their definitions and focal skills:

Social Development: Developing skills that establish and maintain positive relationships and enable communication with others in various settings and situations. Includes building and maintaining positive relationships and communicating well with others are central to success in school and life. Recognizing the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of others leads to effective cooperation, communication, and conflict resolution.

Character Development: Developing skills to help students identify, define and live in accordance with core principles that aid in effective problem solving and responsible decision-making. Includes preparing our children for American citizenship and participation in an interdependent world. Success in school and life is built upon the ability make responsible decisions, solve problems effectively, and to identify and demonstrate core principles.

Personal Development: Developing skills that help students identify, understand and effectively manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Includes building students' personal and academic success on their ability to consider thoughts, understand feelings and manage their responses. Personal thoughts and feelings impact management of experiences and determine behavior outcomes.

Kent Reed, program consultant for school counseling with the Kansas State Department of Education, and Sue Kidd (Coordinator of the Federal Grant for Partnerships in Character Education that was awarded to Kansas to support this effort), led a committee of Kansas educators over a period of 18 months. Drawing upon the Illinois and Anchorage SEL standards, the group engaged Ed Dunkelblau, working with the Character Education Partnership, to serve as the primary consultant to the effort. According to Dunkelblau, "The work done in Kansas can be replicated in any state that shares Kansas' concern for creating a positive, safe and ethical school culture and climate while maximizing academic and social emotional success."

I think this is an effort that should be inspiring to those who want to see systematic progress in how schools address children's social, emotional, character, civic, and academic development. The Kansas model also raises the option of using time-limited grant funds for policy development, rather than programs. For more information, contact Ed Dunkelblau. The Kansas standards can be viewed here.

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Maurice J. Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab (, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service (

Comments (3) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Barbara Luther's picture

We, at Character Education Partnership, are so proud of the passionate work that has been done by Kansas leadership as they have advanced SECD standards in K-12 classrooms across the state. Their comprehensive work with Character Education Partnership over the past 4 years has been gratifiying. We appreciate Maurice Elias, member of our Educational Advisory Board for writing this excellent article and we thank Ed Dunkelblau, CEP consultant, for his insightful facilitation. For more information about this project or about the advancement of SECD in your area, please contact me, Barbara Luther, at

Maggie Pearson's picture
Maggie Pearson
Kindergarten Teacher in Coon Rapids, Minnesota

This blog caught my eye as I am part of our building leadership team and we are in the process of revising and refining our school behavior plan. The words "develop skills" in each of the three areas of development(social, emotional and character)are so important when implementing our plan and giving direction to our social worker and other teachers. Thanks for the information!

manyabock's picture

Thank you for the insight!! I am a parent of five children and I am always looking for information that will help me be a better parent to my children. I believe it is important to recognize the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of my children and it is important for my children to recognize this when interacting with other children and adults. Thanks again!!:)

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