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IES Grant

Title: Promoting Student Performance and Well-being: An Efficacy Trial of High School RULER
Center: NCER Year: 2023
Principal Investigator: Hoffmann, Jessica Awardee: Yale University
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Context for Teaching and Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (09/01/2023 – 08/31/2028) Award Amount: $3,515,147
Type: Initial Efficacy Award Number: R305A230395

Co-Principal Investigator: Kendziora, Kimberly

Purpose: In this project, researchers will test the initial efficacy of High School RULER (HS RULER), a systemic, whole-school approach to social and emotional learning (SEL) for adolescents in grades 9 to 12. HS RULER provides schools with concrete tools and lesson plans to integrate into existing programming to help create safe, supportive school climates, and provide classroom instruction to build students' emotion skills. HS RULER was developed as an extension of the well-established K–8 RULER approach but is especially designed for the specific SEL needs of high school students, such as successful transition into grade 9, college and career readiness, identity development, and managing intimate relationships. The researchers propose to evaluate the efficacy of HS RULER using a blocked cluster randomized controlled trial with typical implementation supports and under routine conditions to U.S. public high schools. The researchers' specific aims are to examine the impact of having access to HS RULER on students' performance and well-being (namely students' emotional intelligence skills, academic performance, school engagement, emotional health and sense of belonging), educator outcomes (namely educators' emotional intelligence skills, engagement, and well-being), and school-level shifts in climate. They also plan to explore differential effects of HS RULER based on student gender, race/ethnicity, grade, socio-economic status, and English learner (EL) status. Through this trial, the researchers hope to increase evidence for the benefits of social-emotional learning for U.S. secondary education more broadly.

Project Activities: The researchers will use a blocked cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the efficacy of HS RULER. During this project, the researchers will provide access to HS RULER to high school educators and students at 30 U.S. high schools, while enrolling 30 additional schools in a waitlist control condition. The staff at the schools will receive training in HS RULER, access to curriculum, online resources, and coaching. The researchers will use surveys to assess changes in student and educator social and emotional competences, engagement, and well-being, as well as school climate. They will use administrative records to assess student academic performance.

Products: The researchers aim to produce evidence of the efficacy of the HS RULER intervention to improve high school students' social, emotional, and academic skills, disseminated through peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in approximately 60 high schools from Los Angeles County (California), Willamette Education Service District (Oregon), and Washoe County (Nevada).

Population/Sample: The researchers aim to recruit at least 80 percent of the educators from the 60 high schools for the impact study, or approximately 35 to 40 per school, and they anticipate a 20 percent attrition rate due to turnover during the 2-year implementation, resulting in approximately 32 educators in the analytic sample at the end of the intervention. All grades 9–11 students enrolled in each participating high school at the beginning of phase 1 will be invited to participate in the impact study. Approximately 50 percent of students are likely to have positive consent and complete student surveys in both phase 1 and phase 2, resulting 150 students per school in the analytic sample.

Intervention: HS RULER is a systemic approach to social and emotional learning based on emotional intelligence — the ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions in oneself and others. HS RULER builds students' emotional intelligence by targeting five skills that form the acronym RULER: recognizing emotions in oneself and others, understanding the causes and consequences of emotions, labeling emotions with a nuanced feeling word vocabulary, expressing emotions effectively given the context, and regulating emotions in healthy ways. HS RULER provides schools with concrete tools and lesson plans to integrate into existing programming to help create safe, supportive school climates, and provide classroom instruction to build students' emotion skills.

HS RULER uses a phased approach in which educators first receive training and learn about the approach (phase 1), followed by student implementation in which the students receive the curriculum (phase 2). During these phases, the educators and students will use the RULER framework, RULER Tools, and RULER Lessons. The researchers will examine student and educator outcomes with regards to emotional intelligence skills and mindsets, perceptions of school climate and the infusion of SEL into school practices, engagement and performance, and overall well-being.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will use a blocked cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT), examining the impact of access to HS RULER on student and educator variables. The first phase of the project will include recruitment, preparation of assessment materials, staffing, and the baseline data collection. Schools assigned to the HS RULER condition will receive access at the start of phase 2 (cohort 1) or phase 3 (cohort 2) and will be followed through the end of phase 3 and 4, respectively. Waitlist schools will then receive access to RULER.

Control Condition: The researchers will randomly assign 30 to a waitlist control condition. Schools will continue business-as-usual during the first years of the study and will receive access to RULER after the treatment group completes 2 years of implementation.

Key Measures: Proximal outcome constructs include (1) emotional intelligence (measured by the Adult EI Test for educators and MSCEIT-Youth Version for students), (2) students' and educators' emotions mindset, and (3) school climate. Key distal outcomes measured will include educator engagement and well-being and student sense of belonging, emotional health, and school engagement across four domains (behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and social) measured by the Multidimensional School Engagement Scale. District administrative data will be used to assess two other distal outcomes: disciplinary behavior and academic performance.

Data Analytic Strategy: Preliminary analyses will include summarizing descriptive statistics to describe the sample and examining psychometric and distributional properties. The researchers will use multilevel modeling. They aim to be able to concurrently account for both individual- and school-level sources of variability in the outcomes by specifying a two-level model that estimates the school-level effect of random assignment. All analyses will use full information maximum likelihood procedures. The main impact analyses will be intent-to-treat analyses, which estimate the impact of being randomly assigned to HS RULER on educator and student proximal and distal outcomes and school climate.

Cost Analysis: The researchers will use the ingredients approach within a resource cost model framework to provide information about the cost and cost effectiveness of the HS RULER program. Data collection for the cost analysis will be carried out concurrently with program implementation for both cohorts and from both treatment and control schools. The analysis will focus on both personnel and non-personnel resources used in HS RULER.

Related IES Projects: Promoting School Readiness Through Emotional Intelligence: An Efficacy Trial of Preschool RULER (R305A180293), Examining the Efficacy of RULER on School Climate, Teacher Well-being, Classroom Climate, and Student Outcomes (R305A180326)

*This application was submitted to the FY2022 Education Research Grants (84.305A) competition and awarded in FY2023 when funds were available.