What UChicago’s Research Reveals About Socioemotional Support in the Classroom

September 21, 2023

Most high schools are familiar with using test scores as the number one way to evaluate student achievement and academic success in the classroom. As a result, educators have been long pressured to spend more time on building extensive lesson plans than investing in the socioemotional well-being of students. But, an April 2023 study by the UChicago Consortium on School Research is adding to a growing body of research showing that the reverse approach may be the best way to help students succeed.

The study, which looked at data from 160,148 Chicago public school eighth and ninth graders, concluded that high schools with established socioemotional development (SED) practices in place were better able to support student well-being and academic achievement—especially for students from historically marginalized communities.

As part of their work, researchers also determined a school’s effectiveness based upon its impact on SED, test scores, and behaviors. They concluded that the most effective schools provide a welcoming environment for students, an experience that shapes their lives long after high school.

Shanette Porter, senior research associate at UChicago Consortium on School Research explained that, “High schools matter, and they matter quite a lot. How safe a student feels—physically, socially, and psychologically—how deeply connected they are to others, how much they trust their teachers and peers, matters. These things that feel soft are inextricably linked to these hard measures of learning.”

Today we’ll unpack what the 2023 UChicago study found, what it means for education professionals, and how CPI training can support educators looking to empower students’ personal and professional growth.

Finding 1: Effective High Schools Contribute to Multiple Dimensions of Student Growth

To set up the study, researchers examined students’ administrative records and reviewed survey results from both students and teachers about whether or not their schools had:

  • A positive school climate
  • Effective leaders
  • Collaborative teachers
  • Involved families
  • Supportive environment
  • Ambitious instruction

Researchers then reviewed the short- and long-term impact of attending “effective” high schools that fostered multi-dimensional growth against those that were classified as being “less effective.”

Short-term results indicated that students attending a high school in the 85th percentile of effectiveness had improved test scores by 8.9% and improved self-reports of SED by 10.2% compared to less effective high schools.

Long-term results showed a 2.4% increase in likelihood of graduating from high school with a 2.57% increase in the likelihood of attending college.

The results of the UChicago study demonstrate that when students are supported socioemotionally and academically, they have a greater chance of succeeding in high school and beyond.

CPI training equips education staff to support student SED. The latest edition of our trauma-informed de-escalation training includes the most up-to-date research on brain science, trauma, and behavior. All so teachers can meet students where they are with empathy and understanding.

Finding 2: Socioemotional Development Had the Greatest Impact on Students’ Long-Term Trajectories

Research shows that when schools prioritize socioemotional support, students are capable of achieving even greater academic and personal success.

The UChicago study found that schools with strong SED in place were:

  • Twice as likely to have higher graduation rates than schools who solely focused on fostering test score growth
  • 15-20% more impactful at improving enrollment in college
  • 15% more impactful at reducing school-based arrests

As educators you’ve likely known this intuitively. You’ve seen how connecting with your students in a meaningful way can support their academic success. Or maybe you were inspired by a previous teacher to enter the profession because you saw just how impactful a good teacher could be.

CPI training can help you in your journey to impact and support your students. Our proactive de-escalation training teaches you how to spot when students’ behavior is signaling that they need support, direction, intervention, or therapeutic rapport.

Case Study: School District U-46 - Illinois

Staff and educators at the U-46 Illinois schools were looking to reduce school fights, improve school culture, and give staff the skills and confidence to address challenging situations in the classroom. With CPI, they were able to achieve these goals and more. Read this case study to see how CPI training could make a difference at your school or district today.

View Success Story

Finding 3: Effective High Schools Have Supportive, Collaborative, and Instructionally Ambitious Climates

It’s no surprise that schools with positive school climates also had more successful academic records. Researchers found that more so than any other factor they studied, a school’s climate was the best indicator of an effective school. While researchers note that there are certainly other aspects that impact a school’s effectiveness (demographics, test scores, etc.), school climate was the best measure of knowing how effective a school could be.

Trauma-informed de-escalation training from CPI can help you achieve that positive school climate, through creating a consistent, effective environment. With CPI training, your staff gain the skills to:

  • Support the emotional, social, and cognitive well-being of students and colleagues
  • Foster a learning environment of safety and connection for students
  • Understand the unique behaviors associated with trauma
  • Recognize and build upon the strengths and experiences of those impacted

Because when staff have the skills to support the socioemotional needs of students, it creates a better school climate and can foster student success.

Schedule a conversation today to see how your school or district can support students in the classroom and beyond with CPI training.

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