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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.
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.