Teaching Social Skills to Improve Both Grades and Lives

I came across a NYT article about a ~20 year study published by Penn State and Duke which looked at the correlation between social competence and outcomes.  It focused on students in kindergarten, measured their social skills, and looked at where they were 13 – 19 years later.

The results were very clear.  Those who had high social competence were 4x more likely to graduate college, less likely to be arrested by the age of 25, had better grades, etc.  The study statistically controlled for the effects of poverty, race, having teen parents, and several other factors.  It corroborates the results of other long term studies done in New Zealand and Britain.

The implications for school districts and teachers are clearly profound.  Students must be good at more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Or STEM.  Or whatever buzzwords you want to use for what have traditionally been considered “core” classes.  It makes a strong case for music education as core curriculum, which teaches social skills in many, many different ways.  (Of note, the recent updates by the US House and Senate to No Child Left Behind have added Music in as a specifically enumerated core competency, assuming that survives conference committee meetings before being passed on to the President for signing.)

When I think about the Jeffco 2020 Vision & Strategy work I was fortunate enough to be a part of, I know that we have hit the mark with regards to teaching social skills.  Jeffco is creating 5 competencies called: Content Mastery, Civic & Global Engagement, Communication, Critical Thinking & Creativity, and Self-Direction & Personal Responsibility.  Each of those has detailed components under it which I have written about in previous blog entries.  At least three of them directly address the results and recommendations of this study and are looking at 21st century education as needing to be more than simply building STEM capabilities.  We need to build the whole person.  In our Jeffco 2020 work, we discussed this concept continuously.

As Jeffco implements its new vision and strategy, it’s nice to know that a 20 year study helps validate the direction and all of the work we put into it.


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