Research on the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative

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Through a six-year project called The Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI), The Wallace Foundation seeks to explore whether and how students will benefit if adults in schools and out-of-school time (OST) programs work together to align and improve experiences and climate to foster social and emotional learning. This work includes helping students develop skills such as self-control, teamwork, persistence, and goal-setting, and helping adults develop the competencies needed to promote this skill development among the students with whom they work.

Wallace selected six communities—Boston, Dallas, Denver, Palm Beach County, Tacoma, and Tulsa—to receive four-year implementation grants beginning in school year 2017–2018 and running through 2020–2021. The Wallace Foundation awards the PSELI implementation grants jointly to the school district and the Out of School Time Intermediary (OSTI) organization, and each of these partners is enacting intensive SEL supports in five to seven elementary schools that are partnering with out-of-school time (OST) programs.

The Wallace Foundation has two goals for PSELI: for local partners to strengthen their capacity to deliver benefits to children in their communities, and for PSELI to develop new knowledge that will be useful to the field. In service of each goal, The Wallace Foundation has commissioned RAND to serve as the research partner on the initiative.

Goals for RAND’s Study

  • Provide ongoing formative feedback to help PSELI grantees assess their progress and improve their capacity to deliver benefits to children
  • Understand how schools and OST programs can deliver high-quality SEL supports and practices and the factors that facilitate or hinder those efforts
  • Assess the effects of the initiative on child outcomes including SEL skills, achievement, and behavior
  • Assess the effects of the initiative on staff outcomes including job satisfaction and absenteeism
  • Explore how outcomes vary as a function of implementation intensity and students’ exposure to SEL practices and supports
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RAND’s Data Collection

To address the study goals, RAND is carrying out the following data collection activities:

  • Annual school and OST staff surveys: These online surveys gauge adults’ perceptions and knowledge of SEL, training received, self-reported SEL practices, and school and OST program climate.
  • Annual site observations: RAND is conducting full-day observations in both school and OST settings to document climate, culture, and SEL activity.
  • Interviews of site and system-level staff: RAND is interviewing staff at the district and OSTI and at the school and OST program levels. The questions focus on what SEL activity is planned for whom, where planned activity has occurred according to the sites, the nature of the school-OST and district-OSTI partnership, and barriers and enablers to SEL implementation.
  • Administrative data: RAND is obtaining data from the school districts and the OSTIs to estimate effects of PSELI on outcomes of interest. The data include student-level attendance, discipline, academic scores, staff-level attendance, and staff turnover.
  • Document review: RAND is reviewing documents such as professional development schedules and grantee plans, among others, to understand how PSELI is implemented.
  • Annual assessment of student SEL skills: Schools are administering a SEL skills assessment, SELweb, to monitor student growth in SEL competencies such as social awareness and self-management. Students also complete self-report surveys to gauge their perceptions of their SEL skills and of the school climate.

Study Timetable and Findings

This six-year study began in school year 2017–2018. Each summer from 2018 to 2020, RAND is providing non-public formative feedback to each community along with an interactive website in which each grantee community can view the data RAND has collected about their sites. In 2020 and beyond, RAND will publish public reports about the implementation and effects of PSELI.