Calmer Choice Outcome Evaluation

The Calmer Choice program is an innovative program grounded in current scientific evidence and informed by data collected by its own outcome processes completed in collaboration with researchers from Tufts and Yale.

These projects are already yielding promising data which further supports the benefits of mindful awareness training for young people, especially as integrated into the culture of an entire school. The Calmer Choice program is continually being evaluated as best practices are identified within its own program as well as those in the field of mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) worldwide. Calmer Choice has welcomed peer review and feedback from their community by participating in regional and national conferences and is looking forward to publication of recent findings.

An outcome evaluation conducted during the 2012-2013, approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), was overseen by researchers from Tufts University. Three hundred and forty one (341) 3rd - 6th graders surveyed prior to participating in the Calmer Choice program (2012-2013) were asked to self-identify challenges related to emotional regulation, social emotional functioning, impulse control, focus and attention, test anxiety and getting to sleep.

Of those surveyed:

  • 10% of the students reported difficulties in all areas
  • 40% reported challenges getting to sleep at night
  • 38% reported test anxiety.

Other specific challenges identified included:

  • Difficulty paying attention and listening in class (12%)
  • Difficulty being kind to others (13%)
  • Difficulty noticing one’s own emotions (19%)
  • Difficulty thinking before speaking when upset (19%)
  • Difficulty noticing the emotions of others (22%)
  • Difficulty calming oneself down when upset (24%)
  • Difficulty thinking before acting when upset (31%)

These self-reported challenges highlight areas that are foundational for effective coping, emotional stability and stable relationships. While middle school and high school students are especially vulnerable, students of all ages often struggle with mental, emotional and behavioral issues resulting in poor academics, behavioral issues, bullying, violence, stress and depression. In fact, it is clear that these challenges often begin in elementary school. In many cases, students struggle silently, often without the knowledge of parents, friends and teachers.

Without intervention, some students will progress to mental, emotional and behavioral challenges including drug and alcohol abuse or other harmful behaviors. These survey results reinforce the need for community-based primary prevention and intervention programs that address the challenges faced by our young people.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that schools are the largest de facto provider of behavioral and mental health services for children in the U.S. Schools offer both the ideal location and opportunity to provide youth with health promotion and prevention programs which can increase their physical, social and emotional wellbeing and instill inner resilience. These programs can teach students how to positively adapt to stress and adversity and, potentially, change the course of a lifetime of unhealthy family behaviors.

In an effort to assess if students are continuing to use and apply the skills learned in school from Calmer Choice, researcher from Yale University collaborated with Calmer Choice and analyzed data from surveys of 224 students who had participated in the program in prior years.

Students were evaluated up to 1 year since last receiving Calmer Choice. A full 60% of students reported that they were still using skills learned either regularly or when needed, 24 % reported they were not sure how often they were using it, but only 15% reported never using them. Additionally, nearly two-thirds (63%) of the students identified using these strategies to calm down, 42% reported using it to fall asleep, and 38% endorsed its use for test taking. More than a one-quarter of these students reported using skills learned at Calmer Choice to help them to be kinder to others (26%), and to help them think before acting (27%).

Cape Cod has a limited available number of facilities and programs to assist students coping with stress, depression and substance abuse and universal primary prevention programs offering mindfulness-based inner resilience training are not offered in the majority of Cape Cod's schools. Calmer Choice remains the only local provider delivering this kind of service to all students.