the results – after emotional and social learning.

the huge potential success of full-scale EQ and SEL programs at every grade level

a tale of higher grades and grad rates,
happier students, better relationships
and way fewer behavioral issues.

Many studies since the 1990s of the effectiveness of prioritizing what educators call Social-Emotional Learning alongside academic learning report notable improvements in grades and attendance.  

Other reported improvements include 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. 


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.)​

good cost-benefit ratio.

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​.

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.


students improve - grades, attitude​.

A landmark meta-analysis of 213 school-based SEL programs involving 270,034 students, from kindergarten through high school, showed positive results. Students demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected a 20% (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.)

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 outcome costs of child aggression, substance abuse, delinquency, and violence. The study also reported lower levels of depression and anxiety; and improved grades, attendance, and performance in core academic subjects. 

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.​

more stable and productive.

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%.​

ready to get involved?

or read about SEL implementation & more data results below.

for students.

Learning includes exploring yourself mentally and relationally, becoming more confident and capable in all of life’s situations.

for parents

For kids’ best shot to succeed in every aspect of life, make sure these skills are taught by their schools – and ideally practiced at home. (Visit For Parents)

for businesses.

There are 54 million parenting households in the U.S., likely including your employees. Promote EQ and SEL and show your committment to the life success of their children and communities. (Visit For Businesses)

best practices: how to do this learning 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 has ways to go – this despite a soaring rate of partial adoption in U.S. schools to help deal with the mental health crisis brought on by Covid restrictions.

Many schools have found less comprehensive ways to have children experience some form of EQ learning. 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 Social and Emotional learning and making it an ever-present reality in their schools.

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

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

Finally, strong programs take a “whole-school” approach that integrates the learning and practices throughout school contexts other than classrooms (the play 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 EQ classes), opportunities to practice those skills throughout the day, and integration with academic lessons. 

Parents in these 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.

The gold standard way of measuring a program’s effectiveness is a randomized control trial – often referred to as 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 programs have undergone a rigorous study of this kind.

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

a brief case study of bringing SEL into schools that need it most.

Nadine Heimann is executive director of True Connection, a small, largely self-funded organization. Their volunteers, including Heimann, train teachers and students pro bono in research-based EQ practices, 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.

Below are brief summaries of independent research findings undertaken for 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 Goldie 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 MindUP
  • 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 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

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

RULER is a program developed at Yale University’s Center 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.
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.

a study of Responsive Classroom.

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

  • 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.
  • Improved Teacher-Student Interactions – improved emotional support for students and improved classroom organization.

researchers from the University of South Florida and Vanderbilt University conducted a randomized study of the Pyramid Model.

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.

a widely implemented program is Second Step, developed by Committee for Children.

It 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.

36 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.


What many teachers feel after SEL is in their schools:
"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."


Marc Brackett,  founding director of Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, and co-founder Susan Rivers , explain EQ.  

An academic definition of emotional intelligence:
"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."