Embargo Period


Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Dr. Alla Korzh


The state of West Virginia has one of the highest national rates of childhood poverty, with 25% of WV children living in poverty as of 2018, and 20% of WV households experiencing food insecurity prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Boone County Schools (BCS) is located in southern WV and serves many students who must overcome the academic barriers of poverty, food insecurity, adverse experiences, the lasting effects of a regional opioid epidemic, and now the social, emotional, and academic challenges stemming from COVID-19. Research suggests that helping students in these demographics develop emotional intelligence promotes their academic and even lifelong success through Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).

SEL is a well-researched concept that, when implemented well, empowers students with skills, knowledge and opportunities to enhance their self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Decades of research have proven SEL provides numerous short- and long-term social, emotional, and academic benefits. However, the social, emotional, and academic challenges that have arisen from COVID-19 have created additional challenges students and educators everywhere. Therefore, in this study, I used qualitative research methods to analyze the SEL programs in place at the elementary level within Boone County Schools (BCS), and then created a list of recommendations for BCS as to how they can strengthen their SEL offerings to support students in the wake of the social, emotional, and academic challenges stemming from COVID-19 and virtual learning.

To learn about the current SEL offerings, how they have been affected by COVID-19, and how they could be strengthened, I relied on qualitative research methods and analyzed responses from anonymous surveys made available to all BCS elementary educators, and semi-structured interviews with four administrators within BCS. I also employed secondary data provided by the West Virginia Department of Education to examine socio-demographic and academic achievement data regarding BCS students.

The findings derived from these research methods showed a lack of consistency among schoolwide SEL programs, which contributes to lack of equitable access to traditional SEL for BCS students. Findings showed that while the majority of BCS educators have a desire to integrate SEL, they currently lack the appropriate resources to do so. Fifty percent of surveyed educators felt their students do not have the social-emotional support they need to be academically successful, and findings also revealed a parallel between the percentage of low-SES students and the percentage of students not achieving proficiency on their summative reading assessments. Finally, interview data yielded the realization of a gap in the Handle with Care program, which requires a collaborative effort between community stakeholders.

Ultimately, these findings inform BCS on the current standing of their SEL offerings as understood by educators and administrators. When utilized, this information can be used to meet the growing needs of a vulnerable population who must overcome a multitude of barriers as they strive for academic success.


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Elementary Education


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