Social-Emotional Learning, School Outcomes, and Civic Engagement Equity: Leveraging Family and Community Influences

How can social-emotional learning practices promote civic engagement among Black and Latino youth?

Black and Latino youth report lower levels of civic knowledge, political skills, attitudes, and traditional forms of political participation compared to White youth. Being civically engaged in adolescence predicts community involvement in adulthood and is related to positive political outcomes. Social-emotional learning (SEL) classes represent a potential mechanism for schools to foster emergent understandings of and capacity for civic engagement among young people, but few, if any, studies have sought to understand the ways in which such programs address issues of equity and social justice, or how they are experienced by youth of color. This descriptive study involves longitudinal, sequential mixed-methods data collection and analysis to examine relationships between SEL practices and student civic engagement, as well as the ways in which family, school, and community socialization shape the civic engagement of youth. In partnership with Chicago Public Schools, Rivas-Drake and colleagues will recruit 4 schools from which they will draw study participants, including approximately 1,500 youth taking SEL classes in 5th – 8th grades, 50 SEL teachers, 32 parents, and up to 8 administrators. Data collection will involve surveys, interviews, and classroom observations. The team will use path analysis and multilevel structural equation models to examine relationships between SEL practices and student civic engagement; interviews will provide more nuanced insight. Examining whether and how teachers adapt the curriculum of the widely used Second Step program to speak to the specific experiences of their predominantly low-income Black and Latino students, the team seeks to identify and build understanding of the conditions under which school-based SEL may be enacted in ways that help youth become civically engaged.

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