Brackett said that students with greater social and emotional intelligence are less anxious, less depressed, less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, less likely to bully others, and more likely to perform well academically.
Fran Rabinowitz, superintendent of schools in Hamden, brought Brackett’s program to her district two-and-a-half years ago. The social and emotional intelligence of students and teachers is critical, she said.
“You can’t move forward in education without building that emotional intelligence of kids and unfortunately in many instances that has fallen off the radar screen,” Rabinowitz said, speaking on a panel at Friday’s event.
“Over the last ten years, all we have seemed to concentrate on is academic achievement and I understand that is incredibly important for students,” Rabinowitz said. But, she said, “If you’re going to be successful you’ve got to build that emotional intelligence and then we can work on ‘Common Core’ and teachers” evaluations.
Rabinowitz said she chose Brackett’s “RULER” program because “it had components that would in fact reach everyone in my school district,” Rabinowitz said from students, to teachers, to bus drivers, and administrative support staff.
Since the start of the program, Rabinowitz said she has seen a significant drop in the number of suspensions at the middle school, fewer bullying incidents, and improved achievement, but she said, it’s difficult to say how closely those gains are related to the district’s focus on raising emotional intelligence.
But, she added: “The research is there. If a kid feels good about themselves and their environment, they are certainly going to learn more. If they don’t, it’s an impediment to learning.”
Many of those in the audience said they came to learn more about emotional intelligence and how it can be improved.
Sabrina Breland, principal of the Wexler-Grant school in New Haven said such a program would be helpful for all students in the district, including those who are identified as bullies. “They have a lot of challenges that need addressing,” she said, “so I think this is a way to not only help the victims, but help the aggressor as well.”