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# The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning

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There is a growing body of research emphasizing the advantages of teaching students social and emotional (SE) skills in school. Here we examine the economic value of these skills within a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) framework. Our examination has three parts. First, we describe how the current method of BCA must be expanded to adequately evaluate SE skills, and we identify important decisions analysts must make. Second, we review the evidence on the benefits of SE skills, again noting key methodological issues with respect to shadow pricing. Finally, we perform BCA of four selected social and emotional learning (SEL) interventions: 4Rs; Second Step, Life Skills Training; and Responsive Classroom. These analyses illustrate both methodological and empirical challenges in estimating net present values for these interventions. Even with these challenges, we find that the benefits of these interventions substantially outweigh the costs. We highlight promising areas of research for improving the application of BCA to SEL.
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... As such, emerging SEL policy agendas instantiate a new mode of psycho-economic governance within education, one underpinned by a political rationality in which (ideally) society is measured effectively through scientific fact-finding and subjects are managed affectively through psychological Emotional Learning in 2016. International organizations including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, UNESCO, and World Economic Forum (WEF) are extending SEL into global policy spaces alongside think tanks and philanthropic partnerships (Williamson & Piattoeva 2018), while SEL has also become a lucrative international market for commercial providers (Hogan et al 2018) and an investment opportunity for venture capital firms (Belfield et al 2015). The global social media company Facebook has even designed features 'rooted in principles of social and emotional learning' into its controversial Messenger Kids app, in order 'to teach kids how to better understand and express their emotions in creative ways, [and] encourage and promote healthy social behaviors' (Cheng & Govindarajan 2018), while the venture philanthropy NewSchools Venture Fund has assembled 14 SEL scales into new 'mash-up' measurement instruments (Atwood & Childress 2018: 7). ...
... The metrics for calculating the social benefit and monetary value of SEL schemes have already been published as a cost-benefit analysis with the title The economic value of social and emotional learning. The report features a simple statistical algorithm for calculating the ROI of SEL programs, which has been used to calculate that SEL programs demonstrate measurable benefits that exceed their costs at an average benefit-cost ratio of about 11 to 1-a substantial economic return of 11 dollars on every dollar invested in SEL programs (Belfield et al 2015). Itself drawing substantially on the work of Heckman and on evidence collected by CASEL, the report provides a justification for state investment in SEL programsas long-term returns in terms of earnings and other socio-economic benefits-as well as for investors, who stand to gain substantially by profiting from measurably successful programs. ...
Article
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Psychology and economics are powerful sources of expert knowledge in contemporary governance. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is becoming a priority in education policy in many parts of the world. Based on the enumeration of students’ ‘noncognitive’ skills, SEL consists of a ‘psycho-economic’ combination of psychometrics with economic analysis, and is producing novel forms of statistical ‘psychodata’ about students. Constituted by an expanding infrastructure of technologies, metrics, people, money and policies, SEL has travelled transnationally through the advocacy of psychologists, economists, and behavioural scientists, with support from think tank coalitions, philanthropies, software companies, investment schemes, and international organizations. The article examines the emerging SEL infrastructure, identifying how psychological and economics experts are producing policy-relevant scientific knowledge and statistical psychodata to influence the direction of SEL policies. It examines how the OECD Study on Social and Emotional Skills, a large-scale computer-based assessment, makes ‘personality’ an international focus for policy intervention and ‘human capital’ formation, thereby translating measurable socio-emotional indicators into predicted socio-economic outcomes. The SEL measurement infrastructure instantiates psychological governance within education, one underpinned by a political rationality in which society is measured effectively through scientific fact-finding and subjects are managed affectively through psychological intervention.
... Such discussion is usually in the context of claims that an education system is in need of modernisation by placing more emphasis on critical thinking and interpersonal characteristics, which are seen as being more important for current and future cohorts of students than has been the case for previous generations. As well as exerting pressure on governments to bring their national curricula into line with these '21 st century' norms, this has contributed to the development of a variety of school-based programmes, including interventions targeted at particular groups and universal programmes, that are intended to enhance students' social and emotional learning (Belfield, Bowden, Klapp, Levin, Shand & Zander, 2015;Bywater & Sharples, 2012;Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor & Schllinger, 2011;Jones & Bouffard, 2012). ...
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This chapter describes two programmes, with signifcant similarities and differences, that have been available in Ireland since 1974 (Transition Year; TY) and South Korea since 2013 (Free Year Programme; FYP). TY takes place over one full year as an integrated part of mainstream secondary education. TY students engage in developmental activities, vocational work experience, and increased interaction with the adult world. These experiences are intended to facilitate enhanced maturity and broadened horizons, supporting young people in becoming fulflled citizens. Although TY is well-established within Ireland, it is an unusual innovation internationally. However, 2013 saw the introduction of FYP, which was partially informed by TY. South Korean policy-makers recognised concern about student wellbeing and stress in a high-stakes academic environment, and challenges relating to students’ readiness for the working world. FYP is a response to those concerns. This chapter offers an overview and comparisons between the two programmes. We argue that both are founded on a eudaimonic view of wellbeing in education, aiming for more holistic and rounded student development. Significantly, both programmes emphasise community engagement and interpersonal development, alongside personal development and self-directed learning. The challenges and practices identifed offer lessons for educators in Ireland, South Korea, and other jurisdictions.
... The European Commission (2017) thus states that SEI learning contributes to a socially cohesive society based on active citizenship, equity and social justice and as part of a meaningful and balanced (cognitive and social and emotional) education represents an important way forward. The benefits of SEI learning for economic development are seen in the increased employability of students and reduced need to provide mental health services, which constitute a heavy economic burden (Belfield et al., 2015). 3 Like education in general, SEI learning is defined not as an independent area but as prerequisite and instrument for higher political goals -the social and economic development of the EU. 4 ...
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The book „Social, emotional and intercultural competencies for inclusive school environments across Europe: Relationships matter“ brings in the insights from the three-year learning process of the HAND in HAND: Social and Emotional Skills for Tolerant and Non-discriminative Societies Erasmus K3 policy experimentation project that targeted the need detected in Europe and internationally to develop inclusive societies (schools and classrooms) that allow every student to feel accepted and be able to achieve their potential, particularly in response to increasing migration trends. HAND in HAND seeks to achieve this by fostering the social, emotional and intercultural/transcultural competencies of students and school staff in the whole-school approach. The list of fundamental questions the monograph deals with are: What are social, emotional and intercultural/transcultural competencies? How do we promote them in schools? What outcomes do we expect on the individual, classroom and school level? How do we measure them and how do we evaluate the expected effects? How to assure high-quality implementation and transferability across contexts? How are these competencies established on a system level and which areas are deficient? The monograph addresses these questions, one by one, providing a holistic overview of social, emotional and intercultural/transcultural competencies that moves beyond the borders of a specific project.
... Finally, practical benefits can also be measured in terms of cost effectiveness (Belfield et al., 2015). This method leads to an overall conclusion that the return on investment for SEL programs is 11 to 1. ...
Article
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Educators frequently hear about successful SEL programs and are then faced with answering the following questions: Should we use this program in our school? Would this new program really be helpful or worthwhile for our students? Considering a program's practical effects on student functioning helps administrators make these important decisions. This brief presents information on one way to answer these questions.
... Pete's vignette illustrates how personalized learning experiences ask students to use self-regulation and organizational skills to manage their productivity, and, in the absence of these skills, students are likely to experience greater stress and less positive outcomes. This finding resonates with the conversation that is happening nationally about the critical importance of social and emotional learning in 21st-century learning and living (Belfield et al., 2015;Bridgeland, Bruce, & Hariharan, 2013) and also suggests that personalized learning experiences, such as the HJL project described in this paper, are an especially rich opportunity to support students in developing these skills. ...
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While providing choice can be a powerful way to personalize learning for young adolescents, there is also evidence that choice can be challenging for learners. This study investigated middle school students’ (N = 72) feelings about making choices in how they learn during a personalized project. Findings include students’ self-reported enjoyment and stress associated with choice within the project as well as five student vignettes illustrating some of the variations across student experiences. Informed by this variation, we offer several implications for research and practice related to supporting students in making choices in their own learning.
Article
Exploring what is known about social and emotional learning as it applies to the educational landscape.
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Nowadays, we are still trapped in a paradigm whose guiding principle is to increase intensity: higher, faster, further. Therefore, many still think that an ever-stronger exploitation of natural resources and increasing monetary profits would bring us wealth and make us happy. For this very reason, we still teach students the values of an ‘elbow-society’, in which everyone seems to think only of themselves first. In this chapter, we show why it is important to shape a paradigm shift from a material to an ethical focus in order to construct a sustainable (in an economic, social, and ecological sense) and resilient society. From this perspective, we outline the importance of setting cornerstones in the field of education, describe concrete competency models, and recommend their implementation through teaching methods like Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Project Based Learning (PBL). Moreover, we contrast the old paradigm and a possible new paradigm based on the values of love and respect that would foster resilience, as illustrated by the best practice example of Bhutan. The complexity of adaptive challenges results from the fact that people are part of both the problem and the solution and key factors such as habits, customs, and cultures come into play and have to be reconsidered.
Article
Joaquin, a 15-year-old Latino high school student, was arrested and removed from the Upward Bound (UB) program following a student-on-student sexual assault allegation. UB adopted a student-centered discipline approach that promoted socioemotional learning opportunities. However, the staff was regulated by complex state and federal policies and had not experienced severe student misconduct claims prior to 2018. This case illustrates how educational leaders grappled with disciplinary issues in a compensatory program with a strong pro-socioemotional learning policy. The case examines the legal, regulatory compliance, and policy issues that arise for leaders in upholding their commitment to socioemotional learning, while holding students accountable.
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Schools worldwide are working to provide all children with the interrelated and transferable competencies they need to contribute successfully to their classrooms, families, and communities. In a systemic approach, SEL can and does take place across multiple contexts, each day, and all year around. For example, SEL at the classroom level needs to be embedded in coordinated, systemic, whole-child, school-wide approaches. This approach maintains that it is possible for educators to intentionally create conditions that optimize social and emotional development for all children. These conditions are fostered through the use and continuous improvement of evidence-based practices that actively involve students, reinforce social and emotional competencies, and create equitable learning opportunities across school, family, and community partnerships.
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A reformed approach to health care tackles health at its roots. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in those exposed to them may contribute significantly to the root causes of many diseases of lifestyle. ACEs are traumatic experiences, such as physical and emotional abuse and exposure to risky family environments. In 1998, a ground-breaking study found that nearly 70% of Americans experience at least 1 ACE in their lifetime, and graded exposure is associated with the presence of mental health disorders, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Over the past 20 years, evidence has demonstrated further disease risk, outcomes, and epigenetic underpinnings in children and adults with ACEs. Building resilience—the capacity to adapt in healthy ways to traumatic experiences—through lifestyle modification offers potential to combat the negative health effects associated with ACEs. Emerging research demonstrates resilience is cultivated through individual skills (emotional intelligence, coping, and fostering healthy lifestyle choices), and nurturing supportive relationships. Being mindful of the impact and prevalence of ACEs and diversity of individuals’ experiences in society will help build resilience and combat the root cause of chronic disease. This review aims to cultivate that awareness and will discuss 3 objectives: to discuss the effects and hypothesized pathophysiological underpinnings of traumatic experiences in childhood on health and wellbeing throughout life, to present ways we can promote resilience in our daily lives and patient encounters, and to demonstrate how advocacy for the reduction of ACEs and promotion of resilient, trauma-informed environments are fundamental to health care reform.
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Background: We report results from the first randomized trial of the Positive Action (PA) intensive family program. Eighteen families (parents and teens) were randomly assigned to receive the program, consisting of 7 weekly meetings, with parents and teens attending separate sessions for the first half of each session (90 minutes) and then attending a joint session for the second half (90 minutes). Eleven families (approximately one-third) were randomly assigned to a wait-listed control condition. Methods: We surveyed all parents before the program and at immediate posttest with 16 items assessing family conflict ( = .74), family cohesion ( = .79), and parent-child bonding ( = .75). Data were also collected from additional parents who participated in two subsequent rounds of the program. Results: Results suggest that the PA intensive family program had immediate positive effects on all three outcomes with effect sizes (Cohen’s d) between 0.34 and 0.59. Significant interactions with pretest scores for cohesion indicated stronger effects for those families at highest risk among this high-risk sample. Data from subsequent pretest-posttest only groups replicated these results. Conclusions: We conclude that this first randomized trial of the Positive Action intensive family program and the pretest-posttest replications provide results worthy of further follow-up.
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The purpose of this longitudinal study was twofold: (a) to investigate academic, behavioral, and emotional outcomes for adolescents who were followed longitudinally from middle through high school and (b) to determine if early assessment of achievement and behavior predicts academic and behavioral outcomes for adolescents who were identified as at risk for developing emotional and behavioral problems when they were in primary school. Teacher ratings and student self-reports suggested that the behavioral and emotional symptoms for this school-based sample of predominately minority adolescents (n = 212, 91% African American and/or Hispanic, 45% boys, 55% girls) decreased across time, although there was significant variability for individuals. The at-risk students in special education had significantly higher self-ratings of emotional problems than the other groups and viewed school more negatively. Assessment of reading and math achievement and teacher ratings of behavior in primary school predicted achievement and behavior through middle and high school for at-risk students. Results have implications for early identification, prevention/intervention programs, and transition planning for children and youth at risk for developing problem behaviors.
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This randomized controlled field trial examined the efficacy of the Responsive Classroom (RC) approach on student achievement. Schools (n = 24) were randomized into intervention and control conditions; 2,904 children were studied from end of second to fifth grade. Students at schools assigned to the RC condition did not outperform students at schools assigned to the control condition in math or reading achievement. Use of RC practices mediated the relation between treatment assignment and improved math and reading achievement. Effect sizes (ES) were calculated as standardized coefficients. ES relations between use of RC practices and achievement were .26 for math and .30 for reading. The RC practices and math achievement relation was greater for students with low initial math achievement (ES = .89). Results emphasize fidelity of implementation.
Book
With budgets squeezed at every level of government, cost-benefit analysis (CBA) holds outstanding potential for assessing the efficiency of many programs. In this first book to address the application of CBA to social policy, experts examine ten of the mo
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Purpose : There is limited research on the costs of social and emotional learning (SEL) interventions [Crowley, Jones, Greenberg, Feinberg & Spoth (2012). Resource Consumption of a Diffusion Model for Prevention Programs: The PROSPER Delivery System. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50 (3), 256–263]. This paper describes a comprehensive methodology for determining the costs of a successful universal, school-based SEL intervention that was implemented in nine public schools over 3 years. Methods : Resource costs were identified using the Cost–Procedure–Process–Outcome Analysis Model [Yates (1996). Analyzing Costs, Procedures, Processes, and Outcomes in Human Services. Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc.; Yates (1999). Measuring and Improving Cost, Cost-Effectiveness, and Cost-Benefit for Substance Abuse Treatment Programs . No. NIH 99-4518, 135] and the ingredients model [Levin (Ed.) (1983). Cost-Effectiveness A Primer (Vol. 4). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage; Levin & McEwan (2001). Cost-Effectiveness Analysis: Methods and Applications . (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications]. This involved careful identification of resource use, finding the cost per unit for each resource by intervention activity, and ultimately calculating the total resource cost (resource use $\times$ cost per unit). Results : Our analysis estimated the overall cost of this 3-year SEL and literacy intervention to be $1,831,296 for nine schools. This averages to$67,825 yearly per school and $130 yearly for each student. The analysis estimated the first year of the intervention to be the costliest ($683,106) and then decreasing in Year 2 ($581,764) and Year 3 ($566,426). Conclusion : This research emphasizes the need to study the costs of SEL interventions. By providing a detailed and standardized methodology, this cost analysis can provide added support for implementing an effective social and emotional learning intervention in a school setting. Furthermore, it provides groundwork for more advanced cost analyses, such as a cost–effectiveness analysis or a benefit-cost analysis (BCA).
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Background/Context: This article addresses the classroom contextual effects of absences on student achievement. Previous research on peer effects has predominantly focused on peer socioeconomic status or classroom academic ability and its effects on classmates. However, the field has been limited by not discerning the individual-level academic effects of being in classrooms with absent peers. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of the Study: The purpose of this study is to determine the peer effects of absent students in urban elementary school classrooms. Population/Participants/Subjects: The data set is longitudinal and comprises entire populations of five elementary school cohorts within the School District of Philadelphia, for a total of 33,420 student observations. Individual student records were linked to teacher and classroom data and to census block neighborhood information. Research Design: To examine the educational effects of absent peers, this study employed an empirical specification of the education production function. The dependent variables were Stanford Achievement Test Ninth Edition (SAT9) reading and math scores. Findings: Models differentiated between unexcused and total absence measures and indicated that the peer effect of absences was driven by negative effects associated with classroom rates of unexcused absences rather with rates of total absences. These findings were obtained after controlling for student, neighborhood, teacher, and classroom characteristics. Conclusions/ Recommendations: Not only are absences detrimental to the absentee, but they alsoo have a pervasive effect on the achievement of other students in the classroom.
Article
There is evidence suggesting that missing school negatively relates to academic achievement. However, it is a difficult task to derive unbiased empirical estimates of absences in their influence on performance. One particular challenge arises from the unobserved heterogeneity in the family environment, which may relate to both absence behavior and school performance. This article provides the first analysis aimed at reducing the family-specific omitted variable bias pertaining to measures of absences in their influence on standardized testing achievement. It does so by employing a model of family fixed effects on a longitudinal sample of siblings within the same household in a large urban school district over six years of observations. The results indicate a stronger, statistically significant negative relationship between absences and achievement than what would have been suggested otherwise. Implications are discussed.