The Foundation of Our Work

Making the Case for SEL

Social-emotional learning, or SEL, is at the core of our work to positively affect children. 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 and our continued program research for the programs and products we develop.

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 Social-Emotional Learning 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 who didn’t participate in an SEL program, those who did showed significant improvements in social-emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point achievement gain.
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Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness

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 Long-Lasting, Positive Effects on People’s Lives and Wellbeing

Kautz, T., Heckman, J.J., Diris, R., ter Weel, B., Borghans, L., Fostering And Measuring Skills: Improving Cognitive And Non-cognitive Skills To Promote Lifetime Success, National Bureau Of Economic Research, commissioned by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

In a paper commissioned by the OECD, SEL is shown to be associated with lower rates of risky behaviors, such as drug use and teen pregnancy, with a decrease in dropout rates of between 5 and 12 percent, and can reduce violent behavior and criminality.
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SEL Prepares Children for Success in Life

Nagaoka, J., Farrington, C.A., Ehrlich, S.B., Heath, R.D. Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework. University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research

In this report released in 2015, researchers show why academic skills alone don’t prepare children to lead a productive, fulfilling adulthood and why social-emotional skills—sometimes referred to as ‘skills for success’—like emotion-management, social– and self-awareness, responsible decision-making, and others are critical to success in school, work, and life.

The report also discusses how adults can help children learn these skills, obstacles that children in poverty and children of color may face, and how policymakers can help overcome these challenges.
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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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Why Implementation Fidelity Is Critical to Program Success

Manges, M. E., & Nickerson, A. B. (2020). Student knowledge gain following the Second Step Child Protection Unit: The influence of treatment integrity. Prevention Science, 1–11.

Explore the effect of teachers’ implementation fidelity when teaching the Second Step® Child Protection Unit in this randomized control trial. Teachers were observed teaching Child Protection Unit lessons and rated on their adherence to content; on their enthusiasm, encouragement of students, and use of behavior-management strategies; and on student behavior and engagement in lessons. Learn why teachers who adhered to the content had students who demonstrated greater knowledge of child sexual abuse prevention 12 months after the intervention.
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Key Reports