New National Research Shows Most U.S. Students Feel Unprepared Without Social and Emotional Skills

Findings underscore link between social and emotional learning and academic performance
Nov 29, 2018 8:00 AM ET

CHICAGO, November 29, 2018 /3BL Media/ – Released today, a report titled Respected: Perspectives of Youth on High School & Social and Emotional Learning, shows that more than three-quarters (77 percent) of recent high school students believe their schools could have done a better job of helping students develop key social and emotional learning (SEL) skills, which are particularly needed at this time of national division, rising violence, anxiety and historic levels of mistrust. It also shows the U.S. education system is not doing enough to help young Americans develop crucial SEL skills such as empathy and confidence, which can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on academic performance and overall well-being.

The report shares the results of a nationally representative survey of 1,300 current high school students and recent graduates. It was produced by Civic and Hart Research Associates for the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), made possible by The Allstate Foundation.

“Young people need help developing their social and emotional skills – especially today, when they are facing vitriolic national dialogue and so many tragic, life-altering events,” said Timothy Shriver, Board Chair of CASEL. “To reach personal goals, build stronger communities and help heal the nation, we all need strong social and emotional skills, such as knowing how to get along with different people and deal with stress.”

The report highlights that many students believe they haven’t been prepared with the SEL skills for success beyond high school. For example, less than half of recent graduates believe they were prepared for success after high school (48 percent) or for a job or career (41 percent). Only 13 percent of recent graduates from “weak SEL schools” felt their school prepared them for success after high school, and only eight percent believe they were prepared for a job or career, compared to 80 percent of students in “strong SEL schools.” [1]

The research also finds vulnerable students feel especially impacted by social and emotional problems in school. For example, Hispanic students are less likely to report feeling physically safe in their high schools (67 percent) than their African American (76 percent) or White (83 percent) peers. The data further shows that students from below-average-income backgrounds are less likely to feel physically safe (63 percent), comfortable participating (39 percent), and excited about learning (48 percent) in school than their more privileged peers. They are also more likely to feel lonely (48 percent) and bullied (40 percent) in school.  

“Many recent high school students feel unprepared for their futures and see a big missing piece in their education,” said John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic and co-author of the report. “If we address this ‘preparation gap’ head on by developing their social and emotional skills, we will also open the door to a stronger future and cultivate a generation of leaders who can work across differences to solve public challenges.”

Students who attend “strong SEL schools,” which provide tools and programs to help educators develop social and emotional skills, report doing much better academically and feeling better prepared for life than those in “weak SEL schools.” Nearly all (88 percent) students, regardless of race or income level, at “strong SEL schools” feel motivated to work hard and do their best in school, compared to just 39 percent of students in “weak SEL schools.” Students at “strong SEL schools” are also more likely to feel physically safe in school (90 percent) than students at “weak SEL schools” (60 percent). 

“We all play a critical role in helping youth develop the skills and abilities to be productive members of the workforce, engaged citizens in our democracy and fulfilled adults,” said Victoria Dinges, senior vice president, Allstate. “It isn’t about quick fixes. It’s about creating meaningful systemic change. That requires us to listen to the ideas that youth have about making the world a better place and providing them with the tools to make their communities better for all.”

In addition, the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, which both Shriver and Bridgeland are part of, will release a report in early 2019 to support educators in developing students’ social and emotional skills.


The Allstate Foundation

The Allstate Foundation helps create more prosperous communities where people are empowered to fulfill their hopes and dreams by inspiring the next generation of leaders, breaking the cycle of domestic violence, closing the nonprofit leadership gap and honoring Allstate volunteers. Through its Good Starts Young® program, The Allstate Foundation enables youth to build social and emotional learning skills and become the next generation of leaders. To find out more about social and emotional learning resources available through Good Starts Young, visit


Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is the nation’s leading organization advancing and promoting integrated Pre-K to 12 academic, social, and emotional learning for all students. Our mission is to make social and emotional learning an integral part of education from preschool through high school. Through research, practice, and policy, CASEL collaborates to ensure all students become knowledgeable, responsible, caring, and contributing members of society. Learn more about CASEL’s work at


Civic is a social enterprise firm that works with corporations, nonprofits, foundations, universities and governments to develop innovative initiatives and public policies in the fields of education, national service, civic engagement, conservation, public health and more. We work with organizations that seek to challenge the status quo and grow their impact for the greater good. Working closely with clients to determine what they need to better engage with their stakeholders and serve their constituents, we specialize in research and policy development, strategy and coalition building, state and federal policy analysis, and strategic communications. For more information about Civic, please visit

Hart Research Associates

Hart Research Associates is one of the leading research firms in the United States and has been at the cutting edge of change in public opinion since our founding in 1971. During that time, we have conducted more than 8,000 public opinion surveys and 7,500 focus groups and in-depth interviews, talking with more than five million individuals across the United States and beyond. In addition to conducting research among everyday Americans, voters, and consumers, we routinely interview elite audiences. These include C-suite decision-makers, senior government officials, and thought leaders across a full range of disciplines, both nationally and abroad. For more information about Hart Research, please visit

[1] “Weak SEL schools” are those that students believed did a “great” or “pretty good” job on 0 or 1 SEL skills, and “strong SEL schools” did “great” or “pretty good” on 6 or 7 SEL skills.