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Although research suggests that course completion and grades in middle school are the strongest predictors of high school performance and graduation (Farrington et al., 2012), there is increasing evidence that social and emotional competence is also critically important.Interventions that promote SEL promote academic performance (Durlak et al., 2011).

The knowledge, skills, and attitudes within the CASEL five competency clusters are especially critical during adolescence because youth at this stage are going through rapid physical, emotional, and cognitive changes.

These changes create unique opportunities for personal and social skill development.

Students who perceive a positive climate in their school demonstrate higher levels of social competence and report fewer personal problems.

Positive school climate in middle and high school is associated with academic achievement, decreased absenteeism, and lower rates of suspension (Thapa et al., 2013).

This is best done through effective classroom instruction, student engagement in positive activities in and out of the classroom, and broad parent and community involvement in program planning, implementation, and evaluation.

SEL programming is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges in the context of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging and meaningful.

Several recent publications on college and career readiness, deeper learning, and 21st-century skills cite personal and social competencies, often called “noncognitive skills,” as fundamental to students’ level of engagement in middle and high school, their post-secondary performance and completion, and their workplace success (ACT, 2014; National Research Council, 2012).

Recognition of the unique needs of students aged 10-15 began with the advent of the “middle school movement” and continues today (Association for Middle Level Education, 2010).

Current best practice guidelines for education at the middle-school level recognize the diverse developmental needs of this age group and the importance of promoting both academic and personal development, including social and emotional competence.

The importance of SEL for high school is also growing in light of its link to college and career readiness and dropout prevention.

Effective SEL programming begins in preschool and continues through high school.