A Foundation
for Success

Making the Case for SEL

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the basis of our flagship curriculum, the research-based Second Step Suite. As an organization, we advocate for social-emotional learning in preschool classrooms and continuing throughout a child’s education. Take a look at the studies below to explore our ever-growing collection of reports on research in the field.

Research Findings

SEL Programs Studied Return $11 for every $1 Invested

Belfield, C., Bowden, B., Klapp, A., Levin, H., Shand, R., & Zander, S. (2015). The economic value of social and emotional learning. New York: Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University.

Explore the economic benefits of SEL in this pioneering report from Columbia University. Detailing a cost-benefit analysis of six SEL interventions, including the Second Step program, the findings show an average return of $11 for every dollar spent.
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SEL Improves Academic Outcomes

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1): 405–432.

In a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal social-emotional learning (SEL) programs, SEL participants demonstrated significant improvements. Compared to students that didn’t receive the program, growth was seen in social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement.
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Social Competence in Kindergarten Predicts Future Outcomes

Jones, D. E., Greenberg, M., and Crowley, M. (2015). Early social-emotional functioning and public health: The relationship between kindergarten social competence and future wellness. American Journal of Public Health, 105(11): 2283–2290. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302630

In a study released in July 2015, nearly 20 years of data from the Fast Track Research Project were examined. Researchers found that teacher-rated social competence in kindergarten consistently predicted outcomes in education, employment, criminal justice, substance use, and mental health into adulthood. Kindergarteners with higher social competence scores were measurably more likely to earn a high school diploma, more likely to attain a college degree, and more likely to have a full-time job at age 25.
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How SEL Prevents Bullying

Smith, B. H., & Low, S. (2013). The role of social-emotional learning in bullying prevention efforts. Theory Into Practice, 52(4), 280–287. doi:10.1080/00405841.2013.829731

Research has shown that building the social-emotional competence of students is an important component of effective bullying prevention. This article examines how social-emotional learning (SEL) contributes to bullying prevention efforts in schools and discusses specific SEL skills that can help prevent bullying when taught to students.
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SEL Has Positive, Lasting Impact for K–12 Students

Taylor, R.D., Oberle, E., Durlak, J.A., & Weissberg, R.P. (2017) Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects. Child Development, 88(4): 1156–1171.

In a follow up to their ground-breaking 2011 meta-analysis, CASEL and collaborating researchers have found that students from kindergarten to high school significantly benefit from school-based, universal social-emotional learning (SEL) interventions. This new meta-analysis, released in July 2017, evaluated results of nearly 97,500 students in 82 schools, and the effects were assessed 6 months to 18 years after the program had ended.

The study shows that 3.5 years after their last SEL intervention, students fared markedly better academically than their peers in control groups by an average of 13 percentile points, based on eight studies that measured academics. Additionally, researchers saw that conduct problems, emotional distress, and drug use were much lower for students with SEL exposure than those without. The study also indicates that—regardless of race, socioeconomic background, or school location—students showed significant positive benefits one year post intervention. This finding suggests that SEL interventions can support the positive development of students from diverse family backgrounds or geographical contexts.
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Key Reports