Journal article

Identifying students who are off-track academically in 9th grade: The role of social-emotional learning trajectories


Published in:

British Journal of Educational Psychology.

By: James Soland, Megan Kuhfeld


Research shows that successfully transitioning from intermediate school to secondary school is pivotal for students to remain on track to graduate. Studies also indicate that a successful transition is a function not only of how prepared the students are academically but also whether they have the social-emotional learning (SEL) skills to succeed in a more independent secondary school environment. Yet, little is known about whether students’ SEL skills are stable over time, and if they are not, whether a student’s initial level of SEL skills at the start of intermediate school or change in SEL skills over time is a better indicator of whether the student will be off track academically in 9th grade. This study begins to investigate this issue. We use four years of longitudinal SEL data from students in a large urban district with a sample size of  about 3,000 students per timepoint. We use several years of longitudinal SEL data to fit growth models for three constructs shown to be related to successfully transitioning to secondary school. In so doing, we examine whether a student’s mean SEL score in 6th grade (status) or growth between 6th and 8th grade is more predictive of being off track academically in 9th grade. Results indicate that, while status is more frequently significant, growth for self-management is also predictive above and beyond status on that construct. Findings suggest that understanding how a student develops social-emotionally can improve identification of students not on track to succeed in high school.

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