OLR Research Report

September 28, 2006




By: Soncia Coleman, Associate Legislative Analyst

You asked for information on “emotional intelligence” and whether it has been integrated in the curriculum in Connecticut schools.


Emotional intelligence refers to the expansion of the conventional view of intelligence and IQ to include social and emotional aspects. In recent years, many school districts have attempted to incorporate emotional intelligence into the school curriculum with programs or teaching methods that focus on social and emotional learning (SEL). Although there are no specific state-level SEL guidelines, there are a number of these programs in Connecticut, with certain districts working to meaningfully incorporate SEL into the whole curriculum.


The term “emotional intelligence” appears to have been coined in 1990 by psychologists John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey (current dean of Yale College). (However, there is earlier research that touches on the concept.) They describe emotional intelligence as “a form of intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and other's feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one's thinking and action.” The psychologists have authored texts, conducted numerous studies, and, along with another psychologist, developed one of the more commonly used emotional intelligence assessments.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman built on their research and in 1995, published Emotional Intelligence, one of the most cited texts on the subject. Goleman's book was on the New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half, with more than 5 million copies in print worldwide. Goleman later authored a book on emotional intelligence in the workplace, joining with other scholars that championed the importance of emotional intelligence in schools, the workplace, and interpersonal relationships in general.

Goleman co-founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which was initially housed at the Yale University Child Studies Center and is now at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a mission to help schools introduce emotional literacy courses. CASEL defines social and emotional learning as the process by which children and adults acquire knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations constructively.

CASEL has conducted extensive research on the benefits of SEL programs and how they impact academic performance, including literature reviews, longitudinal studies, and program evaluations. The following are examples of research presented by the organization in their support of SEL programs:

● A meta-analysis of 165 studies of school-based prevention activities found interventions with SEL components significantly decreased rates of student drop out/non-attendance.

● Well-designed evaluations of several SEL programs have demonstrated that SEL instruction can produce significant improvements in school attitudes, school behavior, and school performance.

● Longitudinal studies of a preschool program designed to foster social-emotional competence documented numerous positive outcomes for program participants, including less time in special education programs, higher literacy and high school graduation rates, higher incomes and rates of homeownership, fewer arrests, and (for females) fewer children outside of marriage.


State Level

Connecticut law does not specifically require districts to incorporate the concept of emotional intelligence into their curricula. However, a 2001 State Board of Education (SBE) position statement on creating a healthy school environment, acknowledges that schools must seek to enhance student learning by addressing the intellectual, emotional, and physical safety needs of students and staff. Specifically, the position statement notes the following:

1. Each adult must send a clear and consistent message to students that each has a duty to behave responsibly and respectfully toward others.

2. Each adult must model the positive behaviors they hope to instill in their students.

3. All school personnel must consistently enforce rules and provide opportunities to develop and foster ethical reasoning, self-control, and respect for others.

4. Academic subjects should be used as vehicles for examining and reflecting on ethical issues.

5. Conflict resolution skills should be taught to provide students with the capacity and commitment to solve conflicts in fair, nonviolent ways.

Connecticut law prescribes the courses of study that must be offered in public schools and requires the SBE to create curriculum materials to assist local boards of education in developing instructional programs. There is no one prescribed course of study specifically dedicated to developing emotional intelligence and therefore, no specific curriculum guidelines offered on the subject at the state level. However, health and safety, including, mental and emotional health, are among the required courses of study.

Additionally, a number of curriculum materials offered by the state reference social and emotional health. For instance, in the Connecticut K-12 Curricular Goals and Standards, there are a number of references to the social and emotional components of certain areas of study, including theater, social studies, and health. The state framework for the Family and Consumer Sciences discipline addresses interpersonal relationships, leadership, and individual and family development content standards. Finally, the SBE recently adopted a curriculum framework for Healthy and Balanced Living. Content standards for comprehensive health education include communication skills, decision-making skills, and analyzing internal and external influences.

Local Level

According to the State Department of Education, all programs that seek to help children deal with their emotions reflectively and thoughtfully fall within the emotional intelligence category. This includes programs in conflict resolution/solving conflicts peacefully, moral/character education, school climate improvement programs, and bullying prevention programs. There are a lot of these programs throughout the state. SDE specifically pointed to the University of Hartford Magnet School, which was created around Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. This theory proposes that each person has the ability to develop a variety of different kinds of "intelligence,” including inter- and intra- personal intelligence.

The Greenwich school system embraced SEL under the direction of former superintendent Larry Leverett. The Greenwich Board of Education has adopted a specific policy on whole-student development through SEL. A copy of the policy is enclosed for your use. Leverett was also instrumental in the integration of SEL into the curriculum in Plainfield, New Jersey, where he served as superintendent before moving to Greenwich.

New Haven has also adopted a K-12 curriculum on social development which focuses, in part, on the development of social and emotional skills and the promotion of emotional and mental health. In fact, an SEL program at New Haven's Troup Middle School (now Troup Magnet Academy of Science), was highlighted by Goleman in his book at a time when there were few programs.

A number of Connecticut organizations offer training in SEL. Two regional education service centers (ACES and CES) will host a professional development seminar on SEL with CASEL. EASTCONN offers training for teams in supporting students' behavioral success that incorporates new research on emotional intelligence. Finally, Simsbury's Charles J. Wolf Associates, LLC offers training on creating an emotionally intelligent school district.


Goleman notes that, when he began his research in 1995, only a handful of SEL programs existed in schools. Currently, many schools, districts, and states have incorporated SEL into their state or local standards. Illinois has adopted comprehensive standards related to emotional intelligence and is considered by some to be the definitive model for incorporating emotional intelligence into the school curriculum. In 2003, the Illinois Children's Mental Health Act was passed. Among other things, the act required every school district to adopt a “policy for incorporating social and emotional development into its educational program.” The policies had to address teaching the SEL skills; assessing students' progress in acquiring the skills; and responding to social, emotional, and mental health problems. The policies had to be submitted to the state board of education. According to CASEL, all 879 Illinois school districts have submitted those policies in accordance with the law. The act also required the state board of education to create social and emotional development standards and incorporate them into the Illinois Learning Standards. Information on these standards is enclosed for your use.