Exploring the Impact of School-based Social-Emotional Learning for At-risk Students in Alternative Schools as it Relates to Readiness to Learn

This research study examined the impact of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs and how those programs affect academic achievements, behavior and attitude towards learning, and mental health and well-being, contributing to readiness to learn with one at-risk student group. Data is collected from a group of sixth through twelfth grade students in an alternative independent study charter school in San Diego County by way of a survey regarding their levels of social emotional need, using questions adapted from an existing survey from an online resource. Students were surveyed in two distinct groups, students who are on track towards graduation, and students who are at least six months credit deficient, in order to identify specific needs and how they differ in each of these student groups. Further data was collected by way of focus group discussions with students and teachers to identify needs and perspectives in this area. Results uncovered areas of SEL in which these groups of students need the most support; Relationship Skills and Self-Management. Literature in this field shows that SEL programs in schools have significant positive benefits including increased test scores and other academic measures, reduced behavior problems, and increased support for mental wellness challenges. Within this combination of a collective case study and data collection, this research concluded that there is an alarming discrepancy in levels of Social Emotional wellness between students who are credit deficient and students who are on track towards graduation. Research supports that SEL benefits all students, and is critical to the success of at-risk students, particularly in alternative schools.