4Rs Research Study

A gold-standard study funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the federal Centers for Disease Control, and the W.T. Grant Foundation has demonstrated that The 4Rs Program has a significant positive effect on children's social, emotional, and academic competency, and on classroom climate.

The study, conducted by Drs. J. Lawrence Aber of New York University, Joshua Brown of Fordham University, and Stephanie Jones of Harvard University, was unusual both in its focus and rigor. Few studies have focused on programs that integrate social and emotional learning with a core academic subject like literacy instruction; and few have focused on programs that engage all children, not just those at highest risk.  Even fewer have followed children’s development over several years and employed an experimental random assignment design, as this one does.

The researchers tracked the development of a cohort of third-grade students in eighteen New York City public elementary schools (2003-2006). Overall, 61 percent of the children were from families at or below the poverty level; 45 percent were Latino, and 41 percent African-American.  Nine schools were randomly assigned to implement the 4Rs school-wide, and the other nine schools were randomly assigned to be control schools, receiving no 4Rs intervention. After two years of The 4Rs, compared to children in the control schools, children in the 4Rs schools showed

  • Lower levels of teacher-reported aggression
  • Less tendency to ascribe hostile motives to others in ambiguous social situations
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Fewer symptoms of attention and hyperactivity problems
  • Increases in social competence

Compared to their counterparts in control schools, children in 4Rs schools who were judged by their teachers at the start of the study to be at greatest behavioral risk (8 percent of the students in the study) showed significantly greater improvement in:

  • Attendance
  • Academic skills, as reported by their teachers
  • Scores on standardized reading and math achievement tests


As part of the study, independent (“blind”) observers assessed the quality of classroom climate in all third grade classrooms in the 18 schools using a research-based observational instrument called the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS).  These observations showed significantly higher levels of overall classroom quality among classrooms in the 4Rs schools compared to classrooms in the control schools at the end of the first year. Specifically, classrooms in 4Rs schools had significantly higher levels of emotional and instructional support compared to classrooms in control schools.  Other research has shown a strong correlation between higher levels on the CLASS and more positive social and emotional development and higher academic achievement.

4Rs research study reports:

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