The effects of a multiyear universal social–emotional learning program: The role of student and school characteristics.
Objective: This article examines the impact of a universal social–emotional learning program, the Fast Track PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) curriculum and teacher consultation, embedded within the Fast Track selective prevention model. Method: The longitudinal analysis involved 2,937 children of multiple ethnicities who remained in the same intervention or control schools for Grades 1, 2, and 3. The study involved a clustered randomized controlled trial involving sets of schools randomized within 3 U.S. locations. Measures assessed teacher and peer reports of aggression, hyperactive–disruptive behaviors, and social competence. Beginning in first grade and through 3 successive years, teachers received training and support and implemented the PATHS curriculum in their classrooms. Results: The study examined the main effects of intervention as well as how outcomes were affected by characteristics of the child (baseline level of problem behavior, gender) and by the school environment (student poverty). Modest positive effects of sustained program exposure included reduced aggression and increased prosocial behavior (according to both teacher and peer report) and improved academic engagement (according to teacher report). Peer report effects were moderated by gender, with significant effects only for boys. Most intervention effects were moderated by school environment, with effects stronger in less disadvantaged schools, and effects on aggression were larger in students who showed higher baseline levels of aggression. Conclusions: A major implication of the findings is that well-implemented multiyear social–emotional learning programs can have significant and meaningful preventive effects on the population-level rates of aggression, social competence, and academic engagement in the elementary school years.