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Social-Emotional grades studied


Positive Action – Social-Emotional Learning


Program Description

Positive Action is a whole-school reform strategy designed to improve social-emotional and achievement outcomes by building school climate, self-control, goal-setting, problem-solving, persistence, and other skills. Students learn these skills through structured discussions and activities, games, and role plays. Teachers receive detailed manuals and materials to support 140 15-20 minute lessons per year (4 days per week). Parents also receive handbooks that parallel the school lessons.

Program Outcomes

Note: This program’s authors proposed some revisions to this summary.  These are currently under discussion, and may lead to revisions by the end of February, 2020. A randomized evaluation of Positive Action compared 7 schools in Chicago using the program to 7 similar schools that did not receive the program. The participating students were composed of 46% African Americans and 27% Hispanics. Students’ academic, behavioral, and social outcomes were measured by students’ self-reports, primary caregivers’ reports, and teacher reports. Among a number of outcomes, students in treatment schools were found to show improved academic performance (ES=+0.14). Although the study also found positive effects of Positive Action on attendance and empathy, the program’s negative effects on engagement with learning and self-efficacy for peer interaction counterbalanced the positive effects, resulting in no significant findings on academic engagement or social relationships.

Another randomized controlled study evaluated Positive Action in 10 schools in Hawaii, comparing them to 10 matched control schools. Twenty-six percent of the sample was Hawaiian, and 25% of the sample was Asian American. All participating schools had at least 25% of the students receiving free- or reduced-price lunches. In this study, students who received Positive Action demonstrated improvements in academic performance (ES=+0.30), academic engagement (ES=+0.21), and suspensions (ES=+0.25).

Positive Action qualifies for ESSA “Strong” rating for Academic Competence and ESSA “Promising” rating for Problem Behaviors.

Staffing Requirements

No additional staffing required

Professional Development/Training

Administrators, faculty and support staff receive at least 3 to 5 hours orientation training in the first year and 2-4 hour sessions for each successive year. Technical support is available with a program consultant as needed. Mid-year, End-of-Year trainings and  Train-the-Trainers options are also available.


No technology required