Independent study commissioned by the American Youth Circus Organization shows high impact of our program

This Evaluation of Program Quality and Social and Emotional Learning in American Youth Circus Organization Social Circus Network (AYCO-SCN) programs was undertaken to answer three questions: Do circus arts program offerings achieve high fidelity implementation of challenging curriculum and responsive instruction for diverse youth? Do youth social and emotional learning (SEL) behavioral skills grow during circus arts program offerings? Do the levels of curriculum challenge, responsive instruction, and skill growth compare to benchmarks for exemplary SEL programs? These questions were answered by using performance measures in AYCO-SCN programs and comparing the results to benchmarks for SEL exemplary and non-selective samples. Results of the study indicated that:

AYCO-SCN circus arts offerings were implemented with fidelity to the AYCO-SCN theory of change. The AYCO-SCN offerings delivered intensive circus arts programming to diverse youth (ethnicity, risk) and were delivered by expert staff who reflected the pattern of youth ethnic diversity. AYCO-SCN offerings also achieved high levels of curriculum challenge, responsive instruction, and youth engagement.

In AYCO-SCN circus arts program offerings, youth skills increased in accord with the AYCO-SCN theory of change. AYCO-SCN youth demonstrated positive and substantial SEL behavioral skill growth from the beginning to the end of the program offering. AYCO-SCN youth who entered the offering with higher behavioral risk had greater SEL behavioral skill gains than youth who entered the offering with low behavioral risk.

AYCO-SCN circus arts program offeringsaverage performance on four key indicators curriculum challenge, responsive instruction, youth engagement, and youth SEL skill growth compared favorably to benchmarks for a selective sample of exemplary SEL programs for adolescents. AYCO-SCN performance for these benchmarks were consistently similar to exemplary programs focused on SEL and substantially outperformed a non-selective reference sample of out-of-school time programs for adolescents.

Given this pattern of results, AYCO-SCN programs appear to be achieving their social purpose by designing and delivering a circus arts curriculum model that combines high challenge and high support; that is, best practices in the field of youth development. The Social Circus Network offerings were of exceptionally high quality and produce substantively important SEL skill change, comparing favorably to exemplary programs with long histories of SEL work and validation.

Read the full study here.