How Early Can SEL Skills be Effectively Taught to Students?

Students entering kindergarten need to know more than just their ABCs. Social and emotional skills are just as important and can have a long-term, positive impact on academic achievement as children grow and mature. Unfortunately, many students are behind in their social and emotional development when they enter kindergarten. But the good news is these skills can be taught. A growing body of research shows that students benefit from SEL programming and these programs can lead to better grades, higher attendance rates, and increased positive behavior. But how early should schools begin teaching these skills? Research indicates the sooner the better. A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with the Baltimore Education Research Consortium tracked the academic outcomes of roughly 9,000 students from kindergarten through the fourth grade. They found that social and emotional readiness is a significant predictor of grade retention. Additionally, their research demonstrated that students who entered kindergarten with low social and emotional skills were:

  • 80% more likely to have been held back a grade
  • 80% more likely to need special education services and supports (such as an ILP or 504 plan)
  • seven times more likely to be suspended or expelled

This research is alarming since students begin developing social and emotional skills in preschool, yet only roughly 28% of students in the U.S. are enrolled in a state Pre-K program. Socio-economic factors play an important role. Some experts estimate that students from low-income families are less likely to have strong social and emotional skills as compared to students from high-income families, and the gap only widens with time. Luckily, just like academic achievement gaps, SEL gaps can be closed. Using quality SEL programming and assessments, schools can help students develop strong social and emotional skills. Teachers can also work with parents so they understand what skills their children need in order to successfully enter kindergarten. Aperture Education’s Evo SEL Platform can help students get on track with their social and emotional development starting in kindergarten. Our system provides research-based assessments, data-interpretation strategies, implementation ideas, and lesson plans to help students develop these important skills early on.

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