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Do soft skills help?

March 6, 2011
In early February, Sarah Sparks wrote an article for Education Week about a meta-analysis of 213 school-based studies that was published in Child Development. She noted that researchers found that students who took part in social-skills programs as part of their regular day made strong academic gains, as well as, gains in social-emotional areas.  In general, social and emotional education seeks to provide a foundation for academic instruction by teaching students skills in self-awareness and self-management, getting along with others, and decision-making.
“There can be a payoff academically for these kids that compares to a lot of straightforward academic interventions,” says University of Chicago professor Joseph Durlak, the lead author, “which is really sort of amazing.”
How can non-academic programs produce academic gains? Likely because teachers find it easier to work with students who are calmer and better behaved. The students who took part in the social-skills programs were more cooperative and helpful, experienced less emotional distress, and had more positive attitudes and fewer conduct problems (e.g., bullying and suspensions).

Thinking about the programs we have implemented at each of our buildings in an effort to support positive student behavior and improve school climate – I am interested to see if academic gains are improved as well.

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