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The Economic Value of SEL

There is a widely used statistic looking at the economic benefit of SEL programs. Columbia University's 2015 study found an 11:1 return on investment of evidence-based SEL programming. The report identified 6 SEL programs (including Second Step) and established the economic return of each program individually and as a whole.

Overall, the report "indicate[s] that SEL interventions can easily pass a benefit-cost test. In fact, the weighted average benefit-cost ratio across all six interventions with prior evidence of effectiveness indicates that identified benefits outweigh the costs by a factor of 11:1, with an average net present value per 100 participants of $618,380."

What is not commonly discussed however, is the standalone cost-benefit analysis of Second Step. The below excerpt from the report outlines the economic benefits when Second Step is implemented in the classroom:

"The costs and minimum net benefits for Second Step are reported in Table 8. Assuming that the costs of instruction are counted, the program costs for one year are $440. The benefits in terms of reduced aggression are $4,320. The baseline estimate therefore yields a net benefit of $388,000 per 100 participants. The sensitivity tests show that Second Step is likely to yield positive net benefits under a range of scenarios. For example, if we apply the benefits from reducing the number of at-risk youth, then the net present value per 100 students increases from the baseline to $711,000. If we assume fadeout is not immediate (within one year) but is only complete after three years, then the net present value increases even further to $796,000. 

Finally, if we assume that achievement and other school outcomes are unchanged – even as the level of aggression is much lower – then the appropriate cost measure should exclude instructional costs. To the degree that a calmer environment reduces the need for discipline and disruption and makes the school safer, it is even conceivable that academic achievement could increase. In this case, the net resource requirement for Second Step is very small. Yet, it seems unlikely either that it is costless to displace instructional time or that instructional efforts in one direction do not jeopardize efforts in another direction. The overall result suggests a good return on an SEL investment under a variety of assumptions."

Positive Pieces Education is the Australian and New Zealand publisher and distributors of Second Step. Contact us for more information about how Second Step can benefit your school.


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