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Links Between Safe School Environments and Academic Achievement Joseph E. Zins CASEL and University of Cincinnati Roger P. Weissberg CASEL and University of Illinois at Chicago Mary Utne O’Brien CASEL and University of Illinois at Chicago Intellectual Property Notice

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Links Between Safe School Environments and Academic Achievement

Joseph E. Zins

CASEL and University of Cincinnati

Roger P. Weissberg

CASEL and University of Illinois at Chicago

Mary Utne O’Brien

CASEL and University of Illinois at Chicago

intellectual property notice
Intellectual Property Notice

Copyright © 2003. CASEL.

Proper attribution to CASEL is required when using or quoting slides from this presentation, please give

© 2003.CASEL.

essential resources
Essential Resources
  • Every Child Learning: Safe and Supportive SchoolsLearning First Alliance, 2001
  • Safe and SoundCASEL, 2003
  • Safe, Supportive and Successful Schools, Step by StepAIR, 2003
  • Building Academic Success on Social and Emotional Learning: What Does the Research Say? Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004

© 2003.CASEL.

challenges facing students
Challenges Facing Students
  • Economic and social pressures
  • Alterations in family composition and stability
  • Breakdown of neighborhoods and extended families
  • Weakening of community institutions
  • Less contact between young people and parents
  • Ongoing exposure to media that encourage health-damaging behavior
  • Mental health problems

© 2003.CASEL.

vision for students success
Vision for Students’ Success

That every student live a satisfying life and meet life’s challenges by:

  • Achieving personal goals
  • Fulfilling family responsibilities
  • Enjoying good health
  • Producing high-quality work
  • Contributing to their community

© 2003.CASEL.

why social and emotional learning sel
Why Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?
  • Emotions affect how and what we learn
  • Relationships provide foundation for learning
  • Relevant skills can be taught
  • Positive effects on academic performance
  • Benefits to physical health
  • Demanded by employers
  • Essential for lifelong success
  • Risk of maladjustment, failed relationships, unhappiness reduced
  • A coordinating framework to overcome fragmentation

© 2003.CASEL.

what is sel
What is SEL?

Educational process of acquiring knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs to:

  • Recognize and manage emotions
  • Care about others
  • Make good decisions
  • Behave ethically and responsibly
  • Develop positive relationships
  • Avoid negative behaviors

Links academic achievement with skills necessary for succeeding in school and in life

© 2003.CASEL.


Evidence-Based SEL Programming Paths to Success in School and in Life


Based SEL



Opportunities &

Rewards for

Positive Behavior



Engagement, &


to School




and Success

in School

and Life

  • Teach SEL
  • Competencies
  • Self-awareness
  • Social awareness
  • Self-management
  • Relationship skills
  • Responsible
  • decision making

Safe, Caring,





Less Risky

Behavior, More

Assets, &



© 2003. CASEL.

sel programming
SEL Programming
  • Enhance social, emotional, and academic skills(capacities)
  • Skills taught and applied in supportive, caring learning environments
  • Provide opportunities and practice

© 2003.CASEL.

key skills taught in sel programs
Key Skills Taught in SEL Programs

Self-Awareness (e.g., identifying and recognizing own emotions, recognizing strengths)

Social Awareness (e.g., empathy, respect for others)

Responsible Decision Making (e.g., evaluation and reflection, personal responsibility)

Self-Management (e.g., impulse control, stress management)

Relationship Skills (e.g., working cooperatively, help seeking and providing)

© 2003.CASEL.

learning environments safe caring well managed
Learning Environments:Safe, Caring, Well-Managed
  • Promote attachment to schools
  • Support positive youth development and behavior
  • Provide supports for
      • School-wide SEL coordination
      • School-family partnerships
      • School-community partnerships

© 2003.CASEL.

application levels of intervention
Application: Levels of Intervention


  • All Students at All Grade Levels
  • Students at Risk
  • Students Currently Experiencing Significant Problems
  • Significant Adults (e.g., teachers, parents)
  • School Climate and Organization
  • Community

© 2003.CASEL.

application approaches to providing sel instruction
Application:Approaches to Providing SEL Instruction
  • Specific SEL Curricula
  • Infused into Regular Academic Curriculum
  • Develop Supportive Learning Environment
  • Alter Instructional Process

© 2003.CASEL.

application instructional approaches cont
Application:Instructional Approaches (cont.)
  • Informal Curriculum
  • Parent-Teacher Partnerships
  • Engaging Students Actively and Experientially in Learning Process
  • Extracurricular Activities

© 2003.CASEL.

examples research support for effective sel instructional practices
Examples: Research Support for Effective SEL Instructional Practices
  • School Preventive Intervention Studies
  • Mental Health and Positive Youth Development Studies
  • Substance Abuse Prevention Studies
  • Academic Performance and Learning Studies

© 2003.CASEL.

school preventive intervention studies
School Preventive Intervention Studies

Wilson et al. (2001) conducted meta-analysis of 165 studies ranging from individually-focused (e.g., counseling, mentoring) to broad environmentally-focused (e.g., school-wide) interventions

© 2003.CASEL.

  • Self-control or social competency programming with cognitive-behavioral and behavioral instruction had largest effects related to school success (e.g., drop out, attendance)
  • Environmentally focused programming especially effective in reducing delinquent behaviors and drug use
  • Programs implemented in isolation have little effect

© 2003.CASEL.

mental health and positive youth development studies
Mental Health and Positive Youth Development Studies

Greenberg et al. (2001) reviewed 130 studies of universal, selected, or indicated prevention programs.

All rigorously evaluated; reduced aggression, depression, anxiety, etc.; or positively influenced factors associated with risk for disorders

© 2003.CASEL.

  • Multi-yearhad more enduring benefits
  • School ecology and climate should be central focus
  • Focus on multiple domains (e.g., individual, school) more effective than child only

© 2003.CASEL.

mental health studies cont
Mental Health Studies(cont.)

Durlak and Wells (1997) conducted meta-analysis of 177 studies of primary prevention programs to decrease behavioral and social problems in youth

© 2003.CASEL.

  • Interventions enhanced competencies (e.g., assertiveness, communication skills, academic performance) and reduced internalizing and externalizing disorders
  • Behavioral approaches produced larger effects than non-behavioral
  • Need better specified program goals and procedures, assessment of implementation quality, and measures of long-term outcomes

© 2003.CASEL.

positive youth development studies
Positive Youth Development Studies

Catalano et al. (2002) examined 161 published studies of positive youth development programs

© 2003.CASEL.

  • Skill building and environmental/organizational change most effective strategies
  • Structured manuals and curricula important to support consistency in delivery
  • Need more standardized measures and comprehensive assessment frameworks
  • Conclusion: “these promotion and prevention programs definitely are making a difference in well-evaluated studies”(p. 62)

© 2003.CASEL.

substance abuse prevention studies
Substance Abuse Prevention Studies

Tobler et al. (2000) conducted an evaluation of 207 universal prevention studies

© 2003.CASEL.

  • Interactiveapproaches that address social influences, life skills, and system-wide change had greater impact on substance abuse
  • Non-interactive, knowledge only, lecture oriented programs (e.g., DARE) have minimal impact
  • Higher intensity (16+ hrs.) interactive programs had more impact than lower intensity (6 hrs.)

© 2003.CASEL.

academic performance and learning studies
Academic Performance and Learning Studies

Wang et al. (1997) examined 28 categories of influences on learning based on 179 handbook chapters, 91 research syntheses, and surveys of 61 national experts

© 2003.CASEL.

  • Among top 11 most influential categories, 8 involved SEL (e.g., student-teacher social interactions, classroom climate, peer group)
  • Conclusion: “direct intervention in the psychological determinants of learning promise the most effective avenues of reform” (p. 210)

© 2003.CASEL.

sel connections to success in school and in life
SEL Connections to Success in School and in Life

More than scores on standardized tests!!!

Growingevidence-based support for improved:

  • Attitudes (motivation, commitment)
  • Behavior (participation, study habits)
  • Performance (grades, subject mastery)


Based on Consortium on the School-Based Promotion of Social Competence, 1994; Elias, 2003; Elias et al., 1997; Fredericks, 2003; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002; Wilson, Gottfredson, & Najaka, 2001; and Zins, Elias, & Greenberg, 2003; Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004.

© 2003.CASEL.

  • Improved ethical attitudes and values
  • Higher sense of self-efficacy
  • Better sense of community (bonding) and view of school as caring
  • Stronger commitment to democratic values
  • More positive attitudes toward school and learning

© 2003.CASEL.

attitudes cont
  • Higher academic motivation and educational aspirations
  • Greater trust and respect for teachers
  • Improved coping with school stressors
  • Increased understanding of consequences of behavior

© 2003.CASEL.

  • More prosocial behavior
  • Fewer absences and suspensions; maintained or improved attendance
  • More likely to work out own way of learning
  • Reductions in aggression, disruptions, and violence
  • Fewer hostile negotiations; lower rate of conduct problems; better conflict resolution skills

© 2003.CASEL.

behaviors cont
  • More classroom participation and higher engagement
  • Greater effort to achieve; more reading outside school
  • Better transitions
  • Less drug, tobacco, & alcohol use & delinquent behavior
  • Decreases in STDs, HIV/AIDS
  • More involvement in positive activities (e.g., sports)

© 2003.CASEL.

  • Improved math, language arts, and social studies skills
  • Increases in achievement over time (elementary to middle school)
  • Higher achievement test scores and no decreases in scores
  • More progress in phonological awareness
  • Improved learning-to-learn skill
  • Better problem solving and planning
  • Improved non-verbal reasoning

© 2003.CASEL.

what does effective sel programming look like
What Does Effective SEL Programming Look Like?
  • Carefully planned, theory and research based
  • Teaches SEL skills for application to daily life
  • Enhances school performance by addressing affective and social dimensions of academic learning
  • Leads to coordinated, integrated, and unified programming linked to academic outcomes

© 2003.CASEL.

effective programming cont
Effective Programming(cont.)
  • Addresses key implementation factors to support effective SEL and development
  • Provides high-quality staff development and support
  • Establishes organizational supports and policies that foster success
  • Involves family-community partnerships
  • Design includes continuous improvement, outcome evaluation, and dissemination components

© 2003.CASEL.


Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (2003). Safe and

sound: An educational leader’s guide to evidence-based social and emotional learning programs.Chicago: Author.

Ellias, M.J., Zins, J.E., Graczyk, P.A., & Weissberg, R.P. (2003). Implementation, sustainability, and scaling-up of social-emotional and academic innovations in public schools. School Psychology Review, 32, 303-319.

Elias, M. J., Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Frey, K. S., Greenberg, M. T., Haynes,

N. M., Kessler, R., Schwab-Stone, M. E., & Shriver, T. P. (1997). Promoting social and emotional learning: Guidelines for educators. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Greenberg, M. T., Weissberg, R.P., O’Brien, M.U., Zins, J.E., Fredericks, L., Resnik, H., & Elias, M.J. (2003). Enhancing school-based prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional, and academic learning. American Psychologist, 58, 466-474.

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.

© 2003.CASEL.

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