benefit of the act is the promotion of academic excellence and equity, it has also led to high-stakes testing, a narrowing of the curriculum, and a loss of the “whole child” in education. Critics caution that, without attending to students’ social and emotional needs, many of these actions may be ineffective at best and harmful at worst, especially for economically disadvantaged groups (Meier and Woods, 2004). A consequence of NCLB has been a marginalization of most prevention efforts, as they have not been well linked to educational outcomes (especially achievement test scores). Few prevention programs take the time or effort to integrate into the schools’ central mission (Smith, Swisher, et al., 2004). In fact, few even assess academic performance as an outcome (Hoagwood, Olin, et al., 2007; Durlak, Weissberg, et al., 2007), although there is some indication that programs focused on social and emotional learning can increase academic achievement (Durlak, Weissberg, et al., 2007).
As a result of federal and state legislation, U.S. schools are rapidly reorganizing and striving to develop broader and more comprehensive models of reform that use clear goals, standards, and benchmarks for outcomes (Education Commission of the States, 2001; Togerni and Anderson, 2003). As empirically validated programs have accumulated and been increasingly adopted (Ringwalt, Ennett, et al., 2002), schools are searching for integrated models with a clear scope and sequence from prekindergarten through grade 12 (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2003; Elias, Zins, et al., 1997). Current evidence-based programs span relatively small parts of this age span.
As the process of school reform grows, researchers and practitioners will need to work together to develop pre-K-12 guidelines and consider how all the elements of evidence-based programs and policies fit together in the context of an overall schoolwide or school district effort, how they increase students’ school success, and how to ensure that coordinated, multiyear programs will be implemented effectively (Adelman and Taylor, 2000; Osher, Dwyer, and Jackson, 2002). Integration of program models across developmental periods, long-term curricular planning involving both researchers and practitioners, adequate local infrastructure to support prevention activities, teacher training and technical assistance, and appropriate evaluation of process and outcome must be part of this process (Greenberg, Weissberg, et al., 2003). Legislation in both Illinois and New York now requires that schools develop plans for social and emotional learning, models for learning standards, and benchmarks across all grade levels.
School–community systems with programming integrated between universal, classroom programs and either selective prevention (e.g., counselor-led programs with students who are experiencing divorce, bereavement,