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This article tests the hypothesis that children's learning environment will improve through a social and emotional learning (SEL) intervention that provides preschool teachers with new skills to manage children's disruptive behavior by reporting results from the Foundations of Learning (FOL) Demonstration, a place-randomized, experimental evaluation conducted by MDRC. Research Findings: Findings demonstrate that the FOL intervention improved teachers' ability to address children's behavior problems and to provide a positive emotional climate in their classrooms. Importantly, the FOL intervention also improved the number of minutes of instructional time, although the quality of teachers' instruction was not improved. Finally, FOL benefited children's observed behavior in classrooms, with lower levels of conflictual interactions and, at the trend level, higher levels of engagement in classrooms activities, relative to similar students randomly assigned to control classrooms. Practice or Policy: This study is one of an emerging body of research on the efficacy of SEL programs for preschool children living in poverty. Understanding the value-added of these programs (e.g., in increased instructional time and increased classroom engagement) as well as their limitations (e.g., in teachers' instructional quality and children's academic skills) will help us design the next set of more effective interventions for low-income children.
There's a strong case for making social and emotional learning (SEL) skills and competencies a central feature of elementary school. Children who master SEL skills get along better with others, do better in school, and have more successful careers and better mental and physical health as adults. Evidence from the most rigorous studies of elementary-school SEL programs however is ambiguous. Some studies find few or no effects, while others find important and meaningful effects. Or studies find effects for some groups of students but not for others. What causes such variation isn't clear, making it hard to interpret and act on the evidence. What are the sources of variation in the impacts of SEL programs designed for the elementary years? To find out, Stephanie Jones, Sophie Barnes, Rebecca Bailey, and Emily Doolittle examine how the theories of change behind 11 widely used school-based SEL interventions align with the way those interventions measure outcomes. Their central conclusion is that what appears to be variation in impacts may instead stem from imprecise program targets misaligned with too-general measures of outcomes. That is to say, program evaluations often fail to measure whether students have mastered the precise skills the programs seek to impart. The authors make three recommendations for policy makers, practitioners, and researchers. The first is that we should focus more on outcomes at the teacher and classroom level, because teachers' own social-emotional competency and the quality of the classroom environment can have a huge effect on students' SEL. Second, because the elementary years span a great many developmental and environmental transitions, SEL programs should take care to focus on the skills appropriate to each grade and age, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Third, they write, measurement of SEL skills among children in this age range should grow narrower in focus but broader in context and depth.
Objective: To report experimental impacts of a universal, integrated school-based intervention in social-emotional learning and literacy development on change over 1 school year in 3rd-grade children's social-emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes. Method: This study employed a school-randomized, experimental design and included 942 3rd-grade children (49% boys; 45.6% Hispanic/Latino, 41.1% Black/African American, 4.7% non-Hispanic White, and 8.6% other racial/ethnic groups, including Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American) in 18 New York City public elementary schools. Data on children's social-cognitive processes (e.g., hostile attribution biases), behavioral symptomatology (e.g., conduct problems), and literacy skills and academic achievement (e.g., reading achievement) were collected in the fall and spring of 1 school year. Results: There were main effects of the 4Rs Program after 1 year on only 2 of the 13 outcomes examined. These include children's self-reports of hostile attributional biases (Cohen's d = 0.20) and depression (d = 0.24). As expected based on program and developmental theory, there were impacts of the intervention for those children identified by teachers at baseline with the highest levels of aggression (d = 0.32-0.59) on 4 other outcomes: children's self-reports of aggressive fantasies, teacher reports of academic skills, reading achievement scaled scores, and children's attendance. Conclusions: This report of effects of the 4Rs intervention on individual children across domains of functioning after 1 school year represents an important first step in establishing a better understanding of what is achievable by a schoolwide intervention such as the 4Rs in its earliest stages of unfolding. The first-year impacts, combined with our knowledge of sustained and expanded effects after a second year, provide evidence that this intervention may be initiating positive developmental cascades both in the general population of students and among those at highest behavioral risk. (Contains 4 tables and 3 figures.)
The article discusses various topics published within the issue including the role of schools and related settings in supporting social and emotional learning (SEL) skill development, the ways by which schools can nurture SEL in students and the cultivation of SEL skills in schools.
A variety of universal school-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs have been designed in the past decades to help children improve social-emotional and academic skills. Evidence on the effectiveness of SEL programs has been mixed in the literature. Using data from a longitudinal follow-up study of children (n = 414) originally enrolled in a clustered randomized controlled trial (RCT) when they were in Head Start, we examined whether universal SEL services in third grade were associated with the development of children from disadvantaged families. We took advantage of pairwise matching in the RCT design to compare children who had similar family background and preschool experiences but received different doses of SEL services in third grade. The results showed that the frequent (i.e., weekly to daily) exposure to SEL opportunities was associated with favorable social-emotional and academic development in third grade, including increased social skills, student-teacher relationship, and academic skills, as well as reduced impulsiveness.
This study contributes to ongoing scholarship at the nexus of translational research, education reform, and the developmental and prevention sciences. It reports 2-year experimental impacts of a universal, integrated school-based intervention in social-emotional learning and literacy development on children's social-emotional, behavioral, and academic functioning. The study employed a school-randomized, experimental design with 1,184 children in 18 elementary schools. Children in the intervention schools showed improvements across several domains: self-reports of hostile attributional bias, aggressive interpersonal negotiation strategies, and depression, and teacher reports of attention skills, and aggressive and socially competent behavior. In addition, there were effects of the intervention on children's math and reading achievement for those identified by teachers at baseline at highest behavioral risk. These findings are interpreted in light of developmental cascades theory and lend support to the value of universal, integrated interventions in the elementary school period for promoting children's social-emotional and academic skills.