The University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Donahue Institute

2016 Publication Archive

MassGrad summary brief: Positive school climate and socio-emotional systems of support

From the brief's introduction:

This brief shares promising practices, successes, and challenges from programs that focused on school climate and socio-emotional systems of support in eight high schools during the 2011–12 through 2014–15 school years. It is one in a series of five briefs based on evidence-based strategies for dropout prevention utilized by schools that received “Implementation Awards” through the MassGrad initiative. 

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education and implemented by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), MassGrad’s primary goal was “to substantially increase the number of students who earn a high school diploma.” MassGrad targeted the 133 schools from 76 districts that exceeded the statewide annual dropout rate of 2.9 percent during the 2008–09 school year.

Schools implementing the Positive School Climate strategy were receiving support to implement programs that helped students at risk of dropping out to identify, understand, and regulate their emotions and interactions with peers and adults. These skills were intended to reduce problematic behavior by teaching students how to interact and communicate positively, and to strengthen their problem solving and decision-making skills. Programs that addressed external social factors, such as family concerns or substance abuse issues, were also included in this category. Most of the programs were targeted to at-risk students, rather than the school’s student population as a whole.

Participating schools described myriad challenges affecting students’ physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being that were addressed by the MassGrad programs. These included social and emotional difficulties, serious mental health issues, crisis, trauma, substance abuse and addiction, low motivation, homelessness, disabilities and other special needs, academic problems, chronic truancy, gang involvement, pregnancy, and parenting.


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