Yale School of Medicine releases report on social and emotional learning in Bridgeport Public Schools

Michael Strambler, PhD, and Joanna Meyer, MAT, from Yale School of Medicine at The Consultation Center on November 2 released an initial evaluation report on the district-wide Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Initiative in Bridgeport.
Michael Strambler

Michael Strambler

Joanna Meyer

Joanna Meyer

SEL is the process of developing personal and inter-personal knowledge and skills related to feelings, thoughts and behaviors. During the first year of classroom-level programming, Strambler and Meyer found evidence that SEL tools were becoming a regular part of classroom instruction. The team also found evidence supporting the relationship of student outcomes such as academic grades, attendance, and rates of suspensions and expulsions with student perceptions of positive school climate and their own SEL skills. Student self-assessments of behavior regulation had the strongest and most consistent association. Bridgeport’s SEL initiative began in the 2013-2014 school year, when Strambler and colleagues partnered with the Wilbur Cross School to implement the RULER Approach, a social and emotional learning program developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The RULER Approach focuses on teaching students and adults to Recognize, Understand, Label, Express and Regulate emotions. This initiative grew to become a district-wide effort when Interim Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz joined the district in March 2014, and the Yale-BPS SEL Partnership was formed. School leaders and district administers spent the 2014-2015 school year preparing for district-wide implementation of RULER, including participating in a Leadership Development program, launching an SEL task force, forming a RULER team at each school, and participating in RULER training. Schools began to introduce students to RULER during the 2015-2016 school year, with the support of the district’s SEL facilitators. Bridgeport’s SEL initiative was featured in an independent report on SEL efforts in three U.S. school districts. The Consultation Center’s evaluation of RULER draws on data from the district’s annual School Climate Survey for students, RULER Implementation Surveys and Logs completed by school personnel, and de-identified student data from district records. Data from the 2015-2016 school year shows associations between a number of school climate domains, such as student-teacher trust, and student outcomes. Students’ self-reported SEL skills across several domains, such as behavior regulation, also correlate with student outcomes. Teacher surveys show that RULER is being integrated into classroom instruction and school practices, with 98 percent of respondents indicating they had introduced two or more RULER tools to their students. The majority of teachers surveyed indicated that they believe RULER is helpful in terms of teaching practical social and emotional skills. As RULER implementation progresses, the evaluation team will look for changes in school climate, SEL skills, and student outcomes. Although a control group is not available due to the district-wide nature of the implementation, the evaluation will examine whether the level of RULER implementation across schools is associated with differences in students’ academic and behavioral outcomes. The goal of the Yale-BPS SEL Partnership is to integrate social and emotional learning throughout the district, while continuously using data to maximize the benefit to students, teachers and other community members. In the spirit of open science, Strambler and colleagues are publishing materials from the project’s evaluation publicly on the Open Science Framework, including surveys, reports, and presentations. Additionally, a detailed addendum to the evaluation report will also be made available.  
This article was submitted by Christopher S Gardner on November 2, 2016.