A School-Randomized Clinical Trial of an Integrated Social-Emotional Learning and Literacy Intervention: Impacts on Third-Grade Outcomes
Objective: To report experimental impacts of a universal, integrated school-based intervention in social–emotional learning and literacy development on change over 1 school year in 3rd-grade children's social–emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes. Method: This study employed a school-randomized, experimental design and included 942 3rd-grade children (49% boys; 45.6% Hispanic/Latino, 41.1% Black/African American, 4.7% non-Hispanic White, and 8.6% other racial/ethnic groups, including Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American) in 18 New York City public elementary schools. Data on children's social–cognitive processes (e.g., hostile attribution biases), behavioral symptomatology (e.g., conduct problems), and literacy skills and academic achievement (e.g., reading achievement) were collected in the fall and spring of 1 school year. Results: There were main effects of the 4Rs Program after 1 year on only 2 of the 13 outcomes examined. These include children's self-reports of hostile attributional biases (Cohen's d = 0.20) and depression ( d = 0.24). As expected based on program and developmental theory, there were impacts of the intervention for those children identified by teachers at baseline with the highest levels of aggression ( d = 0.32–0.59) on 4 other outcomes: children's self-reports of aggressive fantasies, teacher reports of academic skills, reading achievement scaled scores, and children's attendance. Conclusions: This report of effects of the 4Rs intervention on individual children across domains of functioning after 1 school year represents an important first step in establishing a better understanding of what is achievable by a schoolwide intervention such as the 4Rs in its earliest stages of unfolding. The first-year impacts, combined with our knowledge of sustained and expanded effects after a second year, provide evidence that this intervention may be initiating positive developmental cascades both in the general population of students and among those at highest behavioral risk.