Product Focus: Life skills 101

Researchers cite improvements in attitudes, empathy and behavior
By: | November 24, 2016

K12 educators increasingly embrace life skills curricula that promote social-emotional learning, mindfulness, problem-solving and other soft skills. Many districts no longer view such programs as “nice to have” but as essential components of overall instruction.

The growing emphasis on life skills is making an impact. In schools where students demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, there was an 11-percentile-point achievement gain in attitudes, empathy and behavior—compared to schools where such skills were not part of the program, according to an extensive study by researchers from Loyola University Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

More life-skills products now also teach collaboration and problem-solving, an evolution being driven by employers seeking team players who can succeed in group settings.

New products are being geared directly toward professional development for teachers and administrators. When educators embrace life-skill practices in their professional dealings, it carries through in their student interactions.

The Every Student Succeeds Act mandates that one non-academic indicator be considered in assessment. Many educators choose to measure school climate, student engagement or other factors that indicate effective life-skills instruction.

Botvin LifeSkills training: Middle school


Focused on grades 6-9, this evidence-based prevention curriculum helps youths resist drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and refrain from violence and other high-risk behaviors. Lessons that range from 30 to 45 minutes focus on enhancing self-esteem, developing problem-solving abilities, communicating clearly and building relationships.



Kickboard is an online monitoring program that tracks and analyzes student behavior. It offers multi-tiered student supports and interventions, and chronicles referrals, disciplinary incidents and suspensions. The new mobile app provides access to digital assessment tools for collecting, analyzing and sharing real-time data on student behavior and character strengths.

Second Step K-5 Principal Toolkit

Committee for Children

Developed as part of the Second Step social-emotional learning suite of products, this new toolkit helps K5 principals integrate social-emotional learning concepts into everyday school practices and policies. Included are scripted staff orientations, staff-meeting activities, weekly morning announcements, scripts for monthly school assemblies, and staff handouts to highlight key social-emotional concepts.

Conover Workplace Readiness

The Conover Company

The Conover Workplace Readiness program has three components. The Job Readiness Series is an eight-part student credentialing training on workplace readiness covering the soft skills employers look for when assessing job candidates. The Job Seeking Series focuses on key skills needed to find, apply, interview and accept a job. The Job Keeping Series includes practical tips on how to relate to customers, supervisors and co-workers.

Panorama for Social-Emotional Learning

Panorama Education

This online platform offers research-backed student self-assessments of growth mindset, grit, sense of belonging, and 16 other social-emotional learning skills and competencies. Administrators can access interactive student-skill reports, compare social-emotional development among different subgroups, and monitor the overall progress of programs across schools. It also includes peer-generated SEL resources and lessons.

Phillip Roy Life Skills Curriculum

Phillip Roy Inc.

Designed to help students set goals, make better personal choices and take responsibility for their actions, this curriculum includes PDF digital books, interactive online lessons, lesson plans, a teacher’s guide and assessments. The new “Build Your Own Curriculum” model allows download and use of material. Multi-site licensing is also available.



Robots4Autism is an evidence-based, supplemental program designed for K8 students with autism. The curriculum, delivered through the humanoid robot Milo, helps students build critical emotional and social skills. Milo explains the meaning of emotions and expressions, and demonstrates appropriate social behavior and responses.

Student Health 101

Student Health 101

Student Health 101 is a schoolwide, mobile-device-friendly health-and-wellness program that engages students in dealing with bullying, avoiding alcohol and other behavioral topics. The program offers research-based scientific articles that comply with the federal National Health Education Standards, which promote healthy behaviors for students at all grade levels.

Apperson EVO


Apperson’s user-friendly, online software assesses a student’s social and emotional learning competence and resiliency. It employs the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment, a two-part screening tool designed to evaluate students and provide research-informed intervention strategies for those who need help. (Also listed in the Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products)

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