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EL Education proposes to partner with researchers at the University of Virginia and Temple University to study the EL model, which emphasizes character development. Our goal is to advance research on how schools help students become ethical people. The EL Education model is implemented in 150 U.S. schools and has strong evidence of impact on student achievement. We believe EL Education schools cultivate character. However, rigorous research is needed to support (or question) that claim.

The team will engage in a 2-year, mixed-methods, longitudinal study of the development of ethical character. Our primary goal is to ask: Does the EL Education model lead to gains in ethical character? If so, how? Three research questions drive the work. 1) Do students at EL Education versus comparison schools differ in ethical character (i.e., empathy, compassion, respect, integrity)? 2) Do students at EL versus comparison schools differ in other performance outcomes (e.g., attendance, discipline, academic achievement)? 3) What occurs inside schools to cultivate ethical character (e.g., how does the culture of EL schools differ from typical schools?)? Do students at EL schools feel greater belonging, purpose and agency, and if so, do those feelings contribute to ethical character? And, how do students of color vary from their peers in ethical character development?

Aim 1: Conduct a 2-year, longitudinal study examining the extent to which EL Education contributes to gains in ethical character and school performance outcomes.

Aim 2: Use quantitative and qualitative data to explore mechanisms underlying hypothesized gains in ethical character and school performance outcomes.

Deliverables: a report with an executive summary; 2 conference presentations; and 2 empirical papers. The project will contribute new knowledge describing if and how EL schools improve ethical character. If results reveal the efficacy of EL Education, we expect increased adoption of the model.