INSIGHTS: Examining Effects of Social-Emotional Learning in Early Education on Outcomes Through High School and Beyond



INSIGHTS into Children’s Temperament, a comprehensive, school-based preventive intervention, supports students’ social-emotional development in order to improve their behaviors, social-emotional well-being, and academic skills during the transition to elementary school. Prior research has found that INSIGHTS implemented in kindergarten and first grade has short- and medium-term positive effects on behaviors and academic skills in a sample of children from families with low incomes. Building on that earlier work, this study will estimate impacts of INSIGHTS on behavioral and academic outcomes in middle and high school, identify for whom and how the program was most effective, and determine the implementation conditions that supported any lasting impacts.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

The study seeks to estimate impacts of INSIGHTS on a range of long-term student outcomes. The MDRC research team will leverage administrative data from the New York City Department of Education and work closely with the Research Alliance for New York City Schools to conduct the study. The study is funded by a grant (R305A220174) from the Institute of Education Sciences.

This study will examine three overarching research questions:

  1. What is the impact of INSIGHTS on students’ language and math skills in middle and high school?
  2. What is the impact of INSIGHTS on students being on-track to graduate high school in ninth grade, passing New York state Regents tests, and successfully finishing high school?
  3. What is the impact of INSIGHTS on students’ enrollment in two- and four-year colleges?

The study will also consider a number of exploratory analyses, including testing whether impacts varied by gender, child temperament, and behaviors at kindergarten entry; examining whether impacts were mediated by changes in students’ in-school behaviors in middle and high school; and considering whether implementation fidelity or intervention dosage influenced the extent to which there were any lasting impacts. Taken together, results will provide needed evidence to the field on whether investments in social-emotional learning stand to have lasting impacts on students’ learning, development, and school success in adolescence.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

A research team from New York University conducted a randomized controlled trial of 22 schools (11 assigned to INSIGHTS and 11 assigned to a comparison group) in Brooklyn, New York, between 2008 and 2010. This earlier study estimated short-term effects of INSIGHTS on students’ academic skills and behaviors at the end of first grade. The current project accesses follow-up data from the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) on the 1,634 students from the original trial through the end of high school to answer research questions of interest. Students in the follow-up group will only include those still enrolled in the New York City public school system. All data will come from the NYC DOE’s administrative records, made available through the Research Alliance for New York City Schools.