Cluster-Randomized Trial Demonstrates the PATHS® Curriculum Significantly Impacts Academic Achievement

January 8, 2015

Cluster-Randomized Trial Demonstrates the PATHS® Curriculum Significantly Impacts Academic Achievement

Researchers at Yale University, funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, have published findings that the PATHS® Curriculum leads to improvements in basic academic proficiency on state achievement tests in Grades 4 through Grade 6. The randomized trial took place in the New Haven School District which serves a predominantly minority, and low-income population.

The study involved 12 intervention and 12 randomized control schools and longitudinally followed 705 students who remained in their schools from Grade 3 through Grade 6. The sample was 92% Black and Hispanic, and 8% Caucasian. The intervention schools used the PATHS®Curriculum in Grades 3 though 6. The PATHS® Curriculum is designed to improve children's self-control, empathy, problem solving, and behavior. Control schools used preexisting SEL curriculum (Second Step and Project Charlie).

The researchers assessed academic performance using the Connecticut State Mastery Test; a statewide achievement test administered annually to measure academic ability in math, reading, and writing. This study is one of the first to examine the impact of multiyear SEL programming on academic achievement. The researchers examined the percentage of inner-city students who reached basic academic proficiency.

Results revealed that significantly more students enrolled in the PATHS curriculum schools demonstrated basic proficiency in reading (Grade 4), writing (Grade 5 and 6), and math (Grade 4).  In addition, as hypothesized, students whose teachers taught more PATHS® lessons showed greater academic proficiency. Findings showed that teachers who taught more PATHS® lessons in Grade 6, had students who were more likely to be proficient in both reading and math.  These findings were true across ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic status of the students.

The authors note, "these findings indicated that social development instruction may be a promising approach to promote acquisition of academic proficiency, especially among youth attending high-risk school settings. The outcome here is not at the level of the degree of change in test scores but rather a categorical difference between achieving or not achieving basic proficiency on the test, an outcome that is quite important to school districts, schools."

The outcome measure (the state mastery test) was developed independently of the study and administered independently of the study team. Additionally, the outcome measure was not tied directly to the intervention, thus avoiding any instances in which teachers were directing specific instruction to the outcome measure. Unlike claims from school systems of effective interventions to enhance academic achievement, this curriculum most certainly did not "teach to the test" by such means as rote memorization.

Dr. Mark Greenberg, Chair of the Board of PATHS® Education Worldwide noted "this independent study clearly indicates that we can improve student' academic proficiency through the use of the PATHS® Curriculum.  By teaching students self-control, emotion regulation, and problem-solving we can increase their ability to attend and focus- as a result they are learning at faster rates. Quality SEL curricula not only improve students well-being and resilience, but they also improve learning and mastery."

The study citation is:  Schonfeld, D. J., Adams, R. E., Fredstrom, B. K., Weissberg, R. P., Gilman, R., Voyce, C., Tomlin, R., & Speese-Linehan, D. (2014). Cluster-Randomized Trial Demonstrating Impact on Academic Achievement of Elementary Social-Emotional Learning. School Psychology Quarterly, Online First Publication, December 8, 2014.

Further information can be obtained from PATHS® Education Worldwide

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