The effects of learning social-emotional skills on school readiness for children living in poverty : a convergent mixed methods study.


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The rate of children living in poverty in the United States is a consistent problem (Jensen, 2019; Gorski, 2018). In 2019, 17% of children in the United States lived in poverty, while 29% of children in Houston, TX, lived in poverty (Annie Cassey Foundation, n.d.). Similarly, in 2018, 18% of children lived in poverty in the United States and 33% in Houston, TX (Annie Cassey Foundation, n.d.). Child poverty reduces opportunities for experiences critical to the brain’s wiring, resulting in reduced capacities in learning and behavior control (Luby et al., 2013). Moreover, a young child’s brain is 90% developed by age five; intentional learning experiences are crucial (Zhang, 2021). Children living in poverty experience achievement gaps that position them behind their middle-class peers (Yoshiwa et al., 2012). These gaps adversely affect school readiness, leaving children unprepared for school and placing them at risk for future academic failure.

This problem of practice was a convergent mixed methods study designed to understand if learning social-emotional skills affected school readiness for children living in poverty enrolled at a Houston childcare center. I collected the data for the study using the CIRCLE Progress Monitoring Assessment and the Frog Street Assess, Instruct, and Monitor (AIM) Observational assessment with narrative descriptions. Before and after child assessment scores were triangulated with observed classroom ranges per the protocol before and after children learned social-emotional skills.

The results of the study indicated that there was a statistically significant improvement in school readiness as measured by child assessments after learning social-emotional skills. The child assessment scores increased from pre-test to post-test in all learning domains (rapid letter naming, letter-sound correspondence, rapid vocabulary, and math). After learning social-emotional skills, children were more likely to persist with tasks until completion, exhibited self-control strategies, and used words to express feelings. The integration of the data revealed that when observed classroom behaviors progressed, child assessment scores increased. The results of this study indicated that learning social-emotional skills positively impacted school readiness for children living in poverty.