New Research Shows Social Emotional Learning Afterschool Program Boosts Students’ Academic Performance and Classroom Behavior

The First Study of Its Kind on SEL in an Afterschool Setting Highlights Positive Impact of Explicitly Teaching Social Emotional Skills to Kindergarten and First Grade Students

Charleston, S.C., April 02, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A new, first-of-its-kind study provides evidence of the positive impact on academic performance and classroom behavior resulting from the explicit teaching of social emotional skills to at-risk students during afterschool hours. The four-year randomized control trial (RCT) study found that students who participated in the WINGS for Kids afterschool social emotional learning (SEL) program for two years showed improved social emotional skills, executive function, and reading skills when compared to their non-WINGS peers. To date, it is the only RCT study on the impact of SEL in an afterschool setting.

“For the last 20 years, we’ve seen firsthand the tremendous positive impact that our WINGS Afterschool program has on students,” said Bridget Laird, chief executive officer of WINGS for Kids. “Now, we have the research to pair with our stories about how SEL can change students’ lives and improve their behavior and academic skills. The results of our RCT are exciting in that they provide evidence that developing social emotional skills outside of the regular school day, as we do in WINGS, leads to positive impacts in the classroom.”

WINGS’ research-based curriculum provides students with foundational social emotional skills that set them up for success. These skills, such as stress management and resisting negative pressure, help students learn about and manage their emotions and interactions with others, preparing them for success in school and in life. The WINGS Afterschool program offers engaging lessons and activities that create opportunities for embedding social emotional learning in every interaction in a structured yet fun learning environment.

The RCT study, led by Dr. David Grissmer at the University of Virginia and funded by the Institute of Education Sciences and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, evaluated 354 kindergarten and first-grade students at four elementary school-based WINGS Afterschool programs in Charleston, S.C. Data was collected through direct child assessments, teacher surveys on classroom behavior, and parent evaluations on home behavior.

Researchers found that classroom teachers reported statistically significant effects among WINGS participants in 15 specific areas, including self-awareness, less bullying, letter-word identification, decision-making, and less conflict with teachers. In addition, participation in WINGS for two years resulted in stronger effects than participation for only one year, suggesting that the impact of the program increases when students participate in WINGS for a longer amount of time.

The RCT results offer useful insight into what factors impact effective implementation of SEL programming. Dosage, or the amount of time that students spent in the WINGS program, was an important indicator of how strongly students were affected by the program. As students can participate in WINGS through fifth grade, the findings suggest that the positive effects of WINGS and SEL would increase even further among students who participate for several years.

Consistent participation in WINGS was also a key predictor of positive effects on participants but was not always possible for all participants due to high rates of relocation and inconsistent attendance -- all of which are common factors among the at-risk populations and low-income communities that WINGS serves. Implementing the program throughout a school district could both increase dosage and mitigate access and attendance challenges resulting from school closures or families relocating.

“We know that kids spend the majority of their time outside of the classroom,” said Laird. “Research like this shows us that what students learn and experience after the school day ends has a positive, meaningful impact on in-school hours -- and, in the case of social emotional skills, can have a lasting effect on students’ success in later grades, college, and the workplace.”

WINGS has been bringing high-quality social emotional learning to at-risk kids in low-income communities for over 20 years. WINGS currently operates direct service afterschool programs at Title I elementary schools in Charleston, SC; Atlanta, GA; and Charlotte, NC, and has served more than 10,000 students in grades K-5. WINGS also leads training workshops and partnerships that help teachers and practitioners develop their own social emotional skills to better support students and create a school and program culture rooted in SEL.

To read more about WINGS’ RCT study, including more details about the findings and implications, please download the executive summary. To learn more about WINGS and WINGS’ evidence-based SEL programs and curriculum, please visit

About WINGS for Kids

WINGS for Kids is a nonprofit education program that equips at-risk kids with the skills they need to succeed in school, stay in school, and thrive in life. WINGS’ evidence-based approach combines a comprehensive social emotional learning curriculum, engaging afterschool programming, and high-quality training and professional development for practitioners and adults. As a result, the program fosters the mindset, skills, and confidence children need to behave well, make good decisions, and build healthy relationships.



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