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IES Grant

Title: Does Early Intervention Benefit Social-Emotional and Academic Development in Middle School? A Follow-up Study of INSIGHTS
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: O'Connor, Erin Awardee: New York University
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Context for Teaching and Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (9/1/2016-8/31/2019) Award Amount: $1,094,603
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A160177

Co-Principal Investigators: McCormick, Meghan; Cappella, Elise; McClowry, Sandra

Purpose: Researchers investigated whether experience with the INSIGHTS into Children's Temperament intervention in kindergarten and first grade has continued benefits for students when they are in middle school. INSIGHTS helps students, parents and teachers understand how temperament influences behavior and learning in school. In 2008, IES supported an efficacy trial of INSIGHTS with 22 high poverty urban elementary schools randomly assigned to INSIGHTS or an attention control condition (supplemental reading intervention). There were positive impacts of INSIGHTS in kindergarten and first grade on students' behavior, attention, and achievement in reading and math. To determine whether beneficial impacts of the intervention are sustained over time, the investigators collected data from these students and their teachers in middle school.

Project Activities: The project included a partnership between New York University (NYU), MDRC, the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, and the New York City Department of Education. The Research Alliance provided administrative data (e.g., state test scores, discipline referrals) and the NYU and MDRC teams will collect information about these students in middle school through direct assessments and student and teacher report of academic, behavioral, and social-emotional skills.

Key Outcomes:

  • Lower-SES students attending kindergarten in schools assigned to the INSIGHTS group were less likely to have received special education services by fifth grade than lower-SES students enrolled in schools assigned to the attention-control group.
  • Students enrolled in a school assigned to INSIGHTS in kindergarten and first grade had higher scores on the ELA standardized test in third and fourth grade, compared to students enrolled in a school assigned to the comparison group. Further, students who began elementary school with better academic skills outperformed similar students in the comparison group on the ELA standardized test in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade.
  • Additional information about key outcomes and study findings will be reported as more peer reviewed publications are available.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study took place in New York City, an urban setting.

Sample: The researchers invited the 435 students and their families who participated in the 2008 efficacy study to participate in data collection for this follow-up study. These students were in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade. Most of these students are Black (72%) and were living in low-income households (86%) when they participated in the original efficacy trial between 2008 and 2012.

Intervention: The INSIGHTS into Children's Temperament intervention helps students, parents and teachers recognize how children differ in their reactions to stressful situations and offers strategies to help children regulate emotions and behaviors effectively based on their specific temperament. INSIGHTS provides teachers and parents with strategies to reduce children's behavior problems, support their competencies, and enhance their ability to self-regulate. For children, INSIGHTS teaches strategies to learn empathy, appreciate unique qualities of others, and solve typical problems in school. The intervention uses puppets to demonstrate four empirically-derived temperament profiles: Gregory or Gretchen the Grumpy (high maintenance), Hilary or Henry the Hard Worker (industrious), Coretta or Carlos the Cautious (slow to warm up), and Fredrico or Felicity the Friendly (social/eager to try). Parents and teachers watch the puppets enact vignettes in videotapes used during parent and teacher workshops, and children interact with the puppets in their classrooms. The parent and teacher curriculum focuses on helping adults to shape their expectations and approaches to discipline based on different child temperament profiles. The student curriculum focuses on helping children develop empathy for others and strategies for resolving dilemmas both real and hypothetical.

Research Design and Methods: A group randomized trial testing the efficacy of INSIGHTS was completed from 2008 to 2012. Twenty-two urban elementary schools serving low-income families were randomly assigned to INSIGHTS or a supplemental reading program that served as an attention control condition. In the original efficacy trial, data were collected at five time points across kindergarten and first grade in three sequential cohorts of students. There were three sets of participants in this efficacy follow-up: students in 6th grade (Cohort 3 in the original trial), 7th grade (Cohort 2 in the original trial), and 8th grade (Cohort 1 in the original trial); their teachers in middle school; and their parents. Researchers re-contacted parents and students from all three cohorts in Year 1; collected student assessment data as well as student and teacher self-report data in Year 2; cleaned, merged, and analyzed the data in Year 3; and disseminated the findings in Year 4.

Control Condition: Students in schools randomized to the control group in the 2008 efficacy study received a supplemental reading intervention.

Key Measures: Researchers assessed student outcomes in middle school using a combination of administrative data (standardized tests, attendance, suspensions, disciplinary referrals, and special education referrals), direct assessments (Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement, Leiter International Performance Scale Revised), and surveys of students (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, Children's Perceived Self-Efficacy Scales) and teachers (Sutter-Eyberg Student Behavior Inventory, Student Teacher Relationship Scale). All measures were standardized and previously demonstrated to show evidence of good psychometric properties.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers used multilevel modeling and individual growth modeling to investigate the long-term impacts of INSIGHTS, whether treatment dosage or fidelity moderate the impact of the program, and whether children's long-term academic skill development is mediated by children's social-emotional development, school behavior, and short-term impacts of the INSIGHTS program in kindergarten and first grade.

Related IES Projects: Testing the Efficacy of INSIGHTS in Enhancing the Academic Learning Context (R305A080512); Testing the Efficacy of INSIGHTS for Promoting Positive Learning Environments and Academic Achievement in Nebraska: A Replication Study (R305A180290)

Project website:

Products and Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

McCormick, M. P., Neuhaus, R., Horn, E. P., O'Connor, E. E., White, H. I., Harding, S., ... & McClowry, S. (2019). Long-Term Effects of Social–Emotional Learning on Receipt of Special Education and Grade Retention: Evidence From a Randomized Trial of INSIGHTS. AERA Open, 5(3), 2332858419867290.

McCormick, M. P., Neuhaus, R., O'Connor, E. E., White, H. I., Horn, E. P., Harding, S., ... & McClowry, S. (2020). Long-Term Effects of Social-Emotional Learning on Academic Skills: Evidence from a Randomized Trial of INSIGHTS. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 1-27.

Publicly available data  

Data is publicly available via a Restricted Access File (RAF). The data is accessible to qualified researchers who request it and sign an agreement that aligns with the project's data security protocols and Institutional Review Board approvals. Researchers can request access to the data on the project's website here: