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New Professional Learning Standards for Sex Education: PLSSE

New Professional Learning Standards for Sex Education: PLSSE

By Tracy Wright, MAEd | April 15, 2019
Program Manager, ETR

Think about a sexuality educator you know. Think about something brilliant or inspired or compassionate they’ve done in their teaching. Think about the students they serve and what those students need in the classroom. Think about the challenges that educator faces in their school or district, community or state.

If you’re like me, what you get when you think through these things is one highly dedicated, deeply committed individual. This is also true of the people behind the organizations that have devoted themselves to supporting sex educators. This entire community is joining in the quest to ensure that all young people have the knowledge and skills they need to grow into sexually healthy adults.

Just Released! Professional Learning Standards for Sex Education

Teaching sexuality education is different from teaching other subjects. Those of us who offer support through training and professional development want to do whatever we can to help teachers do the best job possible with this super important and pretty complicated subject.

To that end, a group of 20 national, regional and state-based organizations with extensive experience training educators to teach school-based sex education got together to form The Sex Education Collaborative (SEC). The group took up important and challenging discussions about how we could best provide this support for educators. I am happy to report that as of today, the SEC’s Professional Learning Standards for Sex Education (PLSSE) are available.

ETR is proud to serve as one of the members of the SEC. After more than two years of dedicated work, we are excited to join our SEC colleagues in announcing and supporting the release of The Professional Learning Standards for Sex Education.

You Can Put These to Work Right Away

One of the goals of SEC is supporting a shift in our training paradigm. Instead of focusing narrowly on the implementation of individual curricula, the PLSSE were developed to support training on the core skills all educators need to be effective, no matter what curriculum they are using. The PLSSE provide voluntary guidance to school administrators and educators about the essential components (content, skills, disposition) needed to implement sex education effectively. They closely align with the National Sexuality Education Standards and the National Teacher Preparation Standards for Sexuality Education.

Check out this brief for a concise overview of the PLSSE, a list of organizations involved in their development, and some ideas for ways they might be used.

You can find a full set of the PLSSE here. These include a thorough review of how the Standards were developed as well as guidance for using the Standards. An assessment tool is also available to help individuals, schools and organizations assess their competencies and identify needs for professional development and/or technical assistance for individuals who will be offering sexuality education.

The PLSSE are ready to be put into action immediately to inform professional development plans. Here are some suggestions:

  • Individuals. You might use the Standards to plan your personal professional development journey to become the best possible sexual health educator. Note that this is a journey that may take many months or years to complete, depending on where you enter in on the path.
  • District staff. You might use this to help identify professional development opportunities you want to make available to your sexual health education teachers.
  • Organizations that provide professional development for educators. You might create a map of your current professional development opportunities showing their alignment to the Standards. Depending on what you discover, you might create new training opportunities to meet the PLSSE.

More to Come

These PLSSE are a living document. Watch for more information about them as they become integrated into professional development practice. If you or your colleagues are considering trainings related to sexuality education or sexual health, check to see if the providers have offered a PLSSE alignment map.

If you identify a particular area of interest or need as you look over the PLSSE, reach out to professional development providers to see if they are prepared to respond. And just as a note, ETR’s Professional Development and Training Team has been offering trainings and building capacity for over 30 years, and we would be happy to talk with anyone interested in training topics or practices related to the PLSSE.


Tracy Wright, MAEd, is a Project Director at ETR. She can be reached at

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