Houston ISD students struggle to manage stress, Rice research shows

Students in Houston ISD are struggling to manage stress, according to new research. And the study began prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings could have a lasting impact on the students' academic achievement, employment, health and overall well-being.

Rice University's Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC) also found some groups of students — including those who were Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, current English learners, special education students or children who were otherwise considered at risk — generally reported lower levels of social and emotional skills than their peers.


"This means that these individuals could lag behind their peers when it comes to long-term success, not only in school but in life," said Ming Yin, a HERC researcher and the lead author of the briefs.

The research analyzed the social and emotional skills of more than 6,000 10-year-olds and 15-year-olds attending HISD schools. The data was collected in the fall of 2019, before the COVID pandemic temporarily shut down teaching in Houston classrooms.


The research found the 10-year-olds generally showed high levels of tolerance, curiosity, creativity, cooperation, motivation and self-efficacy, but they reported lower levels of assertiveness and stress resistance.

Meanwhile, the 15-year-olds generally showed high levels of tolerance, curiosity, creativity, empathy, cooperation and self-efficacy, but they reported lower levels of trust and stress resistance.

Overall, this research helps identify which groups of students need more support when it comes to developing important social and emotional skills, Yin said, and it indicates which skills each group of students needs help developing.

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"There is a growing consensus that social and emotional skills -- which include the ability to adapt, be resourceful, be respectful and work with others, and take personal and collective responsibility -- are just as important as literacy or numeracy skills that get citizens better prepared academically, professionally and civically," Yin said. "Awareness of and more research on social and emotional learning is of great importance."

To read more about these new research briefs, click here. They were co-authored by HERC researchers Holly Heard, Julia Szabo and Nehemiah Ankoor.