The NCSL Blog


By Alison May

Participants from 31 states joined NCSL’s webinar earlier this month to learn more about the financial impacts of young learners entering kindergarten ill prepared and not having the important social, emotional and behavioral skills necessary to succeed. 

Child with blocksThe webinar, The Costly Consequences of Not Being Socially and Behaviorally Ready by Kindergarten, examined the March 2016 publication The Costly Consequences of Not Being Socially and Behaviorally Ready by Kindergarten: Associations with Grade Retention, Receipt of Academic Support Services, and Suspensions/Expulsions.

Two of the publication' authors, Amie Bettencourt and Deborah Gross, shared their findings during the first half of the webinar. 

Bettencourt and Gross explained that social-behavioral skills, also known as non-cognitive skills, include: social information processing skills, executive functioning skills and emotional regulation skills.

In their study and findings Bettencourt and Gross examined the impact of students not being socially-behaviorally ready for kindergarten on three costly school outcomes for Baltimore City School:

  • Being retained in grade.
  • Receiving additional services and supports through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan.
  • Being suspended or expelled from school.

Their study found young learners who were not socially/behaviorally ready for school were predominantly: male, came from low-income families, did not attend formal preschool and were chronically absent from school.

In order to better help develop the necessary social-behavioral skills for student success Bettencourt and Gross suggest four types of early interventions, including:

  • Behavior management support for teachers.
  • Mental health consultation.
  • Social skills training for children.
  • Parenting programs.

In Maryland, there are Judy Centers, which were appropriately highlighted by Bettencourt and Gross during their presentation. Judy Centers were written into Maryland law in May 2000 (Annotated Code of Maryland, Education Article, §5-215) and are supported by public and private dollars, focus on supporting parents and are an innovative and replicable strategy for addressing social and behavioral problems.

The webinar then shifted gears, allowing participants to hear from two Colorado experts and learn about what Colorado is doing to mitigate the negative effects associated with poor social emotional development and the policy options and innovative solutions they are using to promote healthy development.

Through LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health) Together Colorado communities are advancing children’s social-emotional health. How? By offering a holistic perspective, ecological framework and public health approach that is family-centered and culturally and linguistically competent.

Molly Yost, LAUNCH Together technical assistance and policy manager at Early Milestones Colorado, and Noelle Hause, young child wellness coordinator for the LAUNCH Weld Systems Navigation Project in Weld County, explained that in Colorado some of the main barrier include access and delivery models, financing and workforce capacity and system coordination.

Yost and Hause highlighted the importance of integrating mental health services, investing in workforce capacity development and supporting innovative practices, to name a few. 

Watch the full webinar or simply browse the slide deck on our web page. Plan to join us at 2 p.m. ET, Thursday, Oct. 20, for our next webinar which will highlight a recent report Planting Seeds in Fertile Ground: Steps Every Policymaker Should Take to Advance Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health by ZERO TO THREE, registration information will be available shortly.

Alison May is a staff coordinator in NCSL’s Children and Families program.

Contact Alison.


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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.