Yale Wants To Help Raise City Kids’ Emotional IQ

Paul Bass PhotoAfter two decades of helping New Haven boost homeownership, downtown retail, and college scholarships, Yale has another hand to offer under a new president: boosting kids’ “emotional intelligence.”

Yale President Peter Salovey, who took office this month, helped pioneer the emerging field of emotional intelligence, or “EI,” as a psychology professor.

Meanwhile, New Haven has embarked on a quest to tackle children’s emotional problems as a next frontier in school reform.

A match, perhaps?

In an interview at his Woodbridge Hall office, Salovey said EI could fuel one of several cooperative ventures in a new chapter in Yale’s evolving relationship with its host city. His predecessor, Rick Levin, launched programs that enabled over 1,000 employees to buy homes in town, promised college scholarships to city kids who succeed in school, and revived the Broadway and Chapel Street commercial corridors.

“As we think about New Haven 2.0, Yale’s relationship to New Haven,” Salovey said, “we’ve established homeownership, school reform, the retail climate. All three of these initiatives are going to continue. What will we add to that?”

He offered some possible answers: Building on a new project called New Haven Works to link more city people to local jobs. Maybe creating a fund to support student and faculty entrepreneurs who launch new businesses here in town.

“What if there was a Higher One every three years?” he said, referring to New Haven’s fastest-growing large for-profit employer, a company hatched in a Yale dorm room.

And Salovey talked about emotional intelligence, a subject with which he’s intimately familiar.

In 1990, Salovey coauthored a seminal article about how to identify and measure EI, people’s ability to recognize and understand their feelings as well as other people’s feelings, and then how to deal with them. (Click here to read the article.) He continued to specialize in the subject for the next two decades, founding a center at Yale that developed the so-called “RULER” approach to emotional measurement and learning.

RULER stands for:

” • Recognizing emotions in oneself and others.
” • Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions.
” • Labeling the full range of emotions using a rich vocabulary.
” • Expressing emotions appropriately in different contexts.
” • Regulating emotions effectively to foster healthy relationships and achieve goals.”

The center has refined techniques to measure how well people carry all that out. Self-reporting—simply asking people to rank their emotional skills—is too “easy to fake” or simply get wrong, Salovey said. Instead, kids are asked, for instance, to look at a picture of a face and describe what feeling it communicates; or to suggest how to cheer up someone who feels sad about something.

Since being tapped as Yale’s president-elect, Salovey turned over the controls of the center—now called the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence—to a longtime colleague there, Marc Brackett. The center has worked with schools around the state and the world in testing the approach. It claims that the approach has dramatically boosted kids’ behavior and their performance in school. The center has worked with schools as close by as Hamden, as far as England.

It has never worked with New Haven’s schools. Brackett said he’d like to see that happen now.

“A major goal for the Center for Emotional Intelligence is to help make New Haven an emotionally intelligent community,” Brackett said. “I think the best place is start is with the 21,000 students [in the schools] and the adults involved in their education, including their teachers and families.”

Meanwhile, the New Haven school system has joined with the United Way and Clifford Beers Clinic to form the New Haven Trauma Coalition in the wake of the Newtown school massacre. The coalition (which also includes the Yale Child Study Center) aims to raise $6.5 million to arrange for every New Haven public school student to get screened once a year to see if they are wrestling with effects of being beaten by an adult or losing a home or going hungry or living around drug abuse or seeing a parent stabbed or a friend shot. Onsite therapists would deal with troubles kids bring with them to school before they cause bigger problems, for themselves and for other kids trying to learn in the classroom.

A key member of that coalition, Alice Forrester, who runs Clifford Beers, has already had experience working with Marc Brackett and the Yale center. Beers has incorporated the RULER approach in how it works with families who come in for therapy. The organization itself crafted an “emotional intelligence charter” after a retreat Brackett ran for it; “this shifted how we interface with each other on a leadership level,” Forrester reported. She said she’d love to see the ideas adapted more broadly in New Haven.

The formation of the Trauma Coalition reflects the sense that to succeed, New Haven’s schools need to focus on not just conventional reading and math literacy, say, but emotional literacy as well. Toward that end the school system has been updating programs introduced by an earlier generation of Yale researchers such as the “Comer Method” of of having teachers and students talk out problems as a group. (Click on the play arrow and on this story for an example of how it works.)

“We would love to collaborate with New Haven” if the school system were interested, Salovey said when asked about the prospect. “I’ve worked in this field many, many years. I’m happy to lend expertise.” He said the research developed by the center could also be applied to groups of adults in workplaces, say, or civic organizations. “We’re a wonderfully diverse city. One of the ways we can better understand each other is working on this skill,” Salovey said. Yale’s medical and management schools are looking at integrating the research into their admissions processes.

EI is not a “cure-all,” Salovey noted. It is one of several different routes to tackling those social and emotional challenges in the classroom. Others include standard conflict resolution and cultural-understanding workshops.

He said he also understands that the public school system, located in a university-dominated city, has historically been inundated with requests to serve as a test site for academics’ research, so administrators “have to be especially careful about saying yes or no.”

Garth Harries, New Haven’s new schools superintendent, said some preliminary “conversations” about the RULER program have taken place between school officials and Yale’s center.

He called it premature to predict whether a collaboration will follow given this time of transition—to a new schools superintendent and a new Yale president.

“One of my big priorities is to expand personal development of students. That could well include emotional intelligence. There are a range” of options, Harries said.

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posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on July 31, 2013  4:12pm

The article could have been improved by explaining what has kept the YCEI from working with New Haven Schools already, given the obvious need, the numerous programs and gimmicks attempting to impart life skills and impulse control that have already been tried in the NHPS with (shall we say) mixed success, and the apparent strong record of the program elsewhere.  Reggie Mayo wasn’t interested?

posted by: NHInsider on July 31, 2013  4:40pm

Sounds like another good idea in theory, however we have had ‘Trauma Groups’ come in to do play therapy/puppet shows, then leave.  These events trigger a serious emotional response in the children and the school is left without the support to address their problems. Additionally as stated in the article, New Haven Public Schools are constantly being used as ‘guinea pigs’ by Yale and other groups who start projects for a year or two that are not sustainable. While there is tremendous need for more mental health services in NHPS, we don’t need another experiment performed on our students and then have the money and resources of Yale and Beers disappear AGAIN.

posted by: Elm City Resident on July 31, 2013  5:00pm

This is a nice concept but come on, really?  I wouldn’t be surprised if NHPS kids have higher EI than most Yale graduates.  Yale, under President Levin, made some pretty smart choices about how funds were invested—some good, some not so good, but all smart.  I’m not sure if this is the best use of the University’s money but if this is the desired course then it should start with raising the EI of its own graduates before it tackles NHPS kids, which is a smarter way to ensure philanthropy in communities of need, such as New Haven.

posted by: Megan on July 31, 2013  5:06pm

Lord I hope the next harmless psychological experiment will not be funded by the US Defense Department. Thankfully President Salovey has acknowledged that Yale already gets way too much grant money for the purpose of using New Haven children as guinea pigs.

posted by: Claudia Herrera on July 31, 2013  5:46pm

Before start experimenting more in a our human babies. Could be a good try to invest and create into a truthfully development strategy to improve the quality of life of those kids. Something tell me that IQ will be different.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 31, 2013  7:03pm

On behalf of “the Town”, I’d ask “the Gown” to inventory all its property, have it appraised and agree to be taxed on anything in excess of $250,000. at the same rate as other residential and commercial property owners.

That would add immeasurably to the happiness quotient here in New Haven

Once the taxpayers enjoy a reduced tax level in New Haven, maybe our school system will institute its own program to develop emotional intelligence.

posted by: DingDong on July 31, 2013  10:55pm

This guy seems tone-deaf in a way Levin was not.  Maybe he will grow into the job.  Let’s hope so.

posted by: P Christopher Ozyck on August 1, 2013  10:23am

Having two kids in a comer school I was quite skeptical at first, but was won over after two years of seeing it work.  My kids used the concepts at school and at home and could articulate each pathway. 

Having volunteered in many classrooms I can see how developing language to access feeling can relieve stress and conflict.  Having a class address these social issues together helps build cohesion as a group and allows peers to help resolve conflicts.

posted by: Leslie Blatteau on August 1, 2013  3:06pm

This worries me and it should worry Peter Salovey too:  http://jezebel.com/yale-officially-declares-nonconsensual-sex-not-that-b-988475927

posted by: HewNaven on August 1, 2013  9:12pm

Maybe creating a fund to support student and faculty entrepreneurs who launch new businesses here in town.

While I recognize the growth of Higher One as one example of yalie entrepreneurship, why not include resident entrepreneurs, not just yalies? And, why not encourage those entrepreneurs - from both the town and the university - whose ideas emphasize production and sales and investment in New Haven (i.e. local business). That’s how you proactively build a resilient economy: local demand + local production + local reinvestment.

On the other hand, no one in my neighborhood WORKS or SHOPS at the businesses that Yale brought to New Haven (e.g. Apple Store, American Apparel, J Crew, etc.) And we certainly don’t see any reinvestment in our neighborhood from these businesses; its literally take the money and run. Those stores were brought here specifically to satisfy the consumer demand of the wealthiest Yale students, faculty, and alumni, and to inflate the grand list (which is why the city played along despite the outcry of residents and the pleas of local business owners who were priced out to make way on Broadway, Chapel, etc). Meanwhile, we each have our own main street in our respective neighborhoods that we’re much more concerned about than for Broadway (e.g. Dixwell, Grand, Howard, Whalley). These are the streets that need start-up money for entrepreneurs to provide our everyday needs. Maybe these streets can attempt to re-create the urban middle class that has been lost, and stop the destruction caused by the widening wealth gap. Whether they wish to admit it or not, Yale does have a role to play in all this.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on August 2, 2013  12:04pm

There is something inherently disturbing in these attempts, by Charter Schools and now by Yale University, run largely by white owners and administrators, to engage in “behavior modification” experiences with students from an overwhelmingly large African-American population in the public schools.

I do not send my child to school to be experimented on by psychologist or administrators who seem to think that African-American students in New Haven need to be modified and shaped into the images that mirror the subjectively accepted reality of the dominate culture.

If Yale wants to be of service to the public school students here, maybe (JUST MAYBE) they should enter into constructive dialogue with the parents* of school children to find out how they can be helpful, and not merely tell us what they plan to do with and to our students with an approach that is both racist and parternalistically insulting.

*Parents, for the purposes of my comments, would NOT be limited to a few handpicked sychophants who are typically chosen by the power elite of this city to represent the rest of the community because those picked are dependent on those who pick them for their jobs, positions, or livelihoods.

For the purposes of my comments, “Parents” would be those who children are students in the NHPS, but are those parents who are free to speak their minds with no fear of reprecussions from the city or from Yale.

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee, Pastor
Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church, New Haven

posted by: Tom Burns on August 3, 2013  2:58am

Certain children who attend schools(anywhere)but certainly in urban districts as I have been privy to need more than normal public or private schools can offer-I have been a school counselor for over 25 years and I have worked in rural, suburban and urban districts-and no matter where I am, the school mirrors our society-where some people are sick and others aren’t-where some people are violent and others aren’t-and because of possible litigation and other irrational reasons we choose to look the other way and set no standards of decorum and have no real standards of what is acceptable behavior-and until this is dealt with-our public school children in certain schools have no chance-so I propose that we do partner with Yale in this EI proposition where we agree to do this for 10 years and no less as we will not accept an experiment, but instead a partnership-we must do something, Now-and so I also propose that we establish a Therapeutic School for students in K-8 who struggle in the general population while making it impossible for their fellow students to learn-if we do this, then both types of children get served-Now the ACLU and others will say that you are labeling kids-well, do you really think they haven’t self labeled themselves already-and that they are despised and hated by the other students-IDENTIFICATION is necessary and if you are the parent of a child, such as me, you had better take heed of what the professionals are saying and trust them to do the right thing-thank God my parents believed in what the professionals said and not my sorry excuses for why it wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t get it done-I am so grateful that my teachers had standards and that my parents held me to them-so-a Therapeutic School in New Haven with Dr’s and Psychiatrists and Counselors and Special Teachers and on and on-this will lower the cost of Out placements and give relief to our taxpayers-while giving relief to those students who come to school for the right reasons-T

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on August 4, 2013  9:36pm

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee, Pastor:

“If Yale wants to be of service to the public school students here, maybe (JUST MAYBE) they should enter into constructive dialogue with the parents* of school children to find out how they can be helpful”

Good luck trying to find ‘the parents’, Reverend. The problem is that ‘the parents’ aren’t involved.

posted by: ramonesfan on August 5, 2013  11:35am

@ NewHavenTaxTooHigh

Your idea is on the right track.  If Yale was smart, they’d be teaching the parents about emotional intelligence.  What is the use of counseling a kid about EI if he/she goes home and is inevitably confronted with a clueless parent?  Suppose the kid did learn something useful from Yale (in the short term). The long term influence of a bad parenting would surely negate it.  The kid learns about life from the parent, not Yale.