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The Results – After SEL

The Huge Potential Success of Full-Scale SEL Programs at Every Grade Level

Many studies of the effectiveness of prioritizing Social and Emotional Learning alongside academic learning, dating back to the 1990s and early 2000s up to the present, reported notable improvements in academic performance and attendance; also in healthy and positive interpersonal relationships between students and between students and teachers, and overall higher emotional literacy and better classroom climate.

Students also tended to show improvement in clear thinking, effective decision-making and self-management along with significant decreases in problem behavior. Some studies found that physical health improved along with psychological health. 

More specifically:

BETTER TEST SCORES
A 2004 meta-analysis that looked at the results of 207 separate research studies, reported that SEL-supported students performed significantly better in school and on standardized tests compared to non-participating students. (See Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Wang, M. C., & Walberg. H. J. (Eds.). (2004). Building academic success on social and emotional learning: What does the research say? New York: Teachers College Press.)

STUDENTS IMPROVE – GRADES, ATTITUDE
A landmark meta-analysis of 213 school-based SEL programs involving 270,034 students, from kindergarten through high school, showed similar results. Students demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected an 11 percentile point gain in standardized test scores. The authors called for incorporation of evidence-based SEL programming into standard educational practice. (See Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D. & Schellinger, K. B. (2011), Child Development, 82: 405–432.)

LOWER AMOUNT OF AGGRESSION
One program (Second Step) reported that, after only one year, sixth-graders in 36 tests schools were 42% less likely to say they were involved in physical aggression compared to sixth-graders in schools that did not implement the program.

 

GREAT BENEFITS
Of huge importance, a pioneering cost/benefits analysis undertaken by noted education economists at Columbia University and published in the American Journal of Public Health found an average return on investment of $11 for every dollar spent on SEL programs. Known benefits included: reductions in child aggression, substance abuse, delinquency, and violence; lower levels of depression and anxiety; and improved grades, attendance, and performance in core academic subjects.

GOOD BENEFIT-COST RATIO
Backing this up, a Washington State Institute for Public Policy study of one program, PATHS, reported that it yielded a benefit-cost ratio of $15.66 for each dollar invested, and provided long-term results.

 

POSITIVE OUTCOMES
Notably, an important study released in July 2015 that examined nearly 20 years of data from the Fast Track Research Project, reported that learning social competence in kindergarten consistently predicted positive outcomes in education, employment, criminal justice, substance use, and mental health into adulthood.

MORE LIKELY TO EARN DIPLOMA
Kindergarteners with higher social competence scores were measurably more likely to attain a college degree, more likely to earn a high school diploma, and more likely to have a full-time job at age 25 than non-participants. The study was controlled for race, class, and income factors, and improvement was across the board.

IMPROVED COGNITIVE SKILLS
Other positive reports come from individual SEL programs that have commissioned independent research studies. In one study by a team from University of British Columbia of the MindUP™ program, 96% of three-year-olds increased inhibitory response (less emotional outbursts) and 73% of third graders showed improved planning and organizational skills. Another program (Responsive Classroom) reported that, after a short time, students’ scores on cognitive skills tests improved by 20%.

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE RESULTS
FROM INDIVIDUAL PROGRAMS

CLICK FOR ADDITIONAL STUDIES

Check the below links for reports on SEL from influential think-tanks, journals and research organizations.

SEL in Schools:  How to Do it Right!

Prevention and intervention programs targeting school violence, bullying, conflict resolution and school safety are fairly common within the pre-college education community. However, comprehensive pre-school through 12th grade SEL programming integrated throughout all school contexts is rare.

Many schools have found less comprehensive ways to have children experience some form of EQ training. And many after-school programs across the country have added similar programs and report positive results.

Apart from gains for children, these efforts tend to open the door to demonstrating to school administrators the value of prioritizing SEL and making it an ever-present reality in their schools

So what makes for most effective use of SEL in schools?

At their best, the organizations providing SEL programming train administrators to be SEL champions and facilitate buy-in from teachers, other staffers and students. They also train teachers to implement the programs with fidelity and provide roll-out support, and ensure all adults in the building are educated in basic SEL concepts.

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Students are supported with a variety of multi-media materials while the schools themselves are provided ways of measuring implementation success and student outcomes over time for learning purposes..

Finally, strong programs take a “whole-school” approach that integrates SEL throughout school contexts other than classrooms (the yard, the cafeteria, the hallways, after-school programs, community service, and so on). They also offer students direct skills instruction (often in periods devoted to SEL classes), opportunities to practice those skills throughout the day, and integration with academic lessons. 

Parents in SEL schools are encouraged to be engaged, both in school and at home, and can be referred to home-based instructional materials.

Studies show that the “whole school” approach is essential for sustained impact. Programs deployed on a fragmented basis for crisis management or one-time assemblies rarely have a lasting effect.

How is progress measured?

The gold standard way of measuring a program’s effectiveness is a randomized control trial – often referred to as an to an “evidence-based” test –  meaning either a similar partner school or a grade level or sector of the testing school does not get to experience these programs and results are compared over a set period of time.

A growing number of SEL programs have undergone a rigorous study of this kind.

Second best program is a “research-based” program, meaning its entire design was guided by well-researched principles of social and emotional development.

Nadine Heimann is executive director of True Connection, a small, largely self-funded organization whose volunteers, Heimann included, by way of “giving back” have trained teachers and students  pro bono in research-based SEL practices in two Los Angeles schools and two youth-serving organizations, positively affecting their academic performances.

“Almost all the kids we deal with feel isolated and emotionally upset when you scratch the surface,” she says. “They don’t know how to control their emotions; don’t have the tools for self-love or forgiveness of others. They don’t know how to empathize. Their learning and creativity suffer a lot and they mostly feel helpless. 

“Once they learn and practice these really simple tools, everything turns around for them. They know how to deal with their feelings, they understand and can practice self-love, and they become empathetic and understanding of others. 

“They learn how to collaborate with others and become intuitive problem solvers. It’s so evident they need these social and emotional practices in school every day. That’s what sets them up for true success. You need these skills to be successful in anything you do.

“Most importantly, it sets them up to lead meaningful, purposeful lives, and they deserve that. The future of humanity and the planet depend on it.”

INDIVIDUAL STUDIES OF EFFECTIVENESS OF SEL PROGRAMS

Below are brief summaries of independent research findings undertaken by several different SEL programs seeking to measure the effectiveness of their own approaches.

The University of British Columbia evaluated the effectiveness of MindUP™, developed by The Hawn Foundation, on students in grades 4 and 5.

  • 82% of children reported having a more positive outlook and 81% of children “learned to make themselves happy,” to quote MinUP.
  • 100% of teachers reported that MindUP positively influenced classroom culture and that students were significantly more attentive.

Another MindUP study at one school in 2011 found that:

  • 96% of 3 year olds increased inhibitory response
  • 54% of 2nd and 3rd graders increased inhibitory response
  • 73% of 3rd graders showed improved planning and organizational skills
  • 78% of all students and 100% of all Kindergarten students said MindUP helped them to be more relaxed
  • 66% of all students and 100% of all 3 year olds said MindUP made them feel happy
  • 56% of all students and 92% of all 3 year olds reported greater peer acceptance
  • 64% of all 4th and 5th graders demonstrated increased empathy
  • 90% of all students said MindUP helped kids get along better

Another SEL program, PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies), has been shown to:

  • reduce teachers’ reports of students exhibiting aggressive behavior by 32%
  • increase teachers’ reports of students exhibiting self-control by 36%
  • improve performance on state achievement tests in reading, math, and writing
  • increase students’ vocabulary for emotions by 68%
  • increase students’ scores on cognitive skills tests by 20%
  • significantly improve students’ ability to tolerate frustration plus their ability — and willingness — to use effective conflict-resolution strategies
  • in grades 3 through 6 students were more likely to achieve basic proficiency on their state’s achievement tests in reading (grade 4), math (grade 4), and writing (grades 5 and 6), compared to students who received limited SEL instruction
  • reduce depression and sadness among special-needs students
  • significantly increase teachers’ reports of improved academic engagement
  • significantly reduce students’ reports of male students exhibiting aggressive behavior

Marc Brackett (who now runs Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, and Susan Rivers, protégés of Salovey, put it this way:

“The process of integrating thinking, feeling, and behaving in order to become aware of the self and of others, make responsible decisions, and manage one’s own behaviors and those of others.”

A large-scale national study of Head Start pre-school classrooms found that PATHS program students

  • were more likely to apply appropriate social behaviors, such as cooperating with peers and effectively resolving conflicts
  • showed improvements in learning behaviors, such as following directions and staying on task.

As another example, RULER is an SEL Program housed at the Yale University’s Centers for Emotional Intelligence.

One RULER study focused on the academic performance and social and emotional competence of 273 5th and 6th grade students in 15 classrooms in three schools.

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Academic performance was assessed by report card grades. Social and emotional competence was assessed with teacher reports of student behavior.

Students in classrooms integrating RULER had higher year-end grades and higher teacher ratings of social and emotional competence (e.g., leadership, social skills, and study skills) compared to students in the comparison group.

Probably the most widely implemented SEL program is Second Step, developed by Committee for Children. 

It was was the subject of a 2010 randomized control trial over a one-year period with 7,300 students and 321 teachers in 61 schools across six school districts, from kindergarten to second grade. Significant improvements in social-emotional competence and behavior were made by children who started the school year with skill deficits in these areas.

Another study of 1,253 second- through fourth-grade children found those who participated in the Second Step program showed greater improvement in teacher ratings of their social competence, were less aggressive, and were more likely to choose positive goals than the control group.

It feels like home, It feels like family, you are forced to grow, to push to challenge yourself. to let go of the things that you have inside that don’t work well. And I’d become a better person as a human being for being here not just a better teacher.

JAMES MCGOVERN
Mission hill 4th and 5th grade Teacher

Thirty-six middle schools in the Chicago and Wichita areas participated in an evaluation of the Second Step Middle School program. After one year, sixth-graders in schools that implemented the program were 42% less likely to say they were involved in physical aggression compared to sixth-graders in schools that did not implement the program.

Then there is Responsive Classroom.

From 2008 to 2011, researchers at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education conducted a three-year randomized control trial funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The study involved 24 elementary schools in a large district in a mid-Atlantic state. The schools were assigned randomly to SEL intervention and no SEL groups. The study followed 350 teachers and more than 2,900 students from the spring of the students’ second grade year to the spring of their fifth grade year. Results were:

    1. Improved Student Achievement – gains in student math and reading achievement were equally strong for children eligible for free/reduced price lunch and those not eligible. Results were stronger for students who were initially low achieving than for others.
    2. Improved Teacher-Student Interactions – improved emotional support for students and improved classroom organization.

With still another SEL program, the Pyramid Model, researchers from the University of South Florida and Vanderbilt University conducted a randomized study examining its implementation. 

Teachers were recruited from public preschool classrooms in Florida and Tennessee that served children with, at risk for, and without disabilities. Data were collected on a total of 484 children in these classrooms (252 intervention; 232 control), including two to three target children per classroom who were identified as having behavioral challenges (54 intervention; 43 control).

Following the intervention, non-target children whose teachers were in the intervention group were rated significantly higher on social skills than non-target children whose teachers were in the control group.

Target children within classrooms in the experimental group had statistically significant and noteworthy reductions in problem behavior as rated by teachers in comparison to target children whose teachers were in the control group.

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