Model Program

Open Circle

Wellesley Centers for Women - STC, Wellesley College
106 Centreal Street
Wellesley, MA 02482

Is this your program? Update your listing here.

Contact Information:
Ms. Nova Biro

Program Specification:






Strong Evidence of Effectiveness

Age/Grade Level:

Target Settings:

Target Groups:

Middle School
High School

Inner City

School Wide


Other Participation Criteria:

All Ethnicities


Open Circle is a whole-school social and emotional learning program designed to improve school climate and foster social and emotional skill development in grades K-5. Since 1987 Open Circle has reached nearly half a million children and trained over 10,000 educators. A program of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, Open Circle is currently used in 262 schools across 98 communities in the Northeast. Open Circle strives to develop safe, caring and cooperative learning environments and develop children's self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship and decision-making skills. The Open Circle approach involves 15-minute, twice-weekly class meetings with active lessons from the grade-differentiated, spiraling Open Circle Curriculum. In addition, teachers, administrators, support staff, and parents infuse Open Circle concepts throughout the school day and at home. Teachers receive extensive training and coaching, while other school community members receive training tailored to their specific roles at school and at home.

Program Descriptors Include:
Early Childhood Education, Mentoring/Tutoring, Service Learning, Academic Improvement, Behavior Management/Discipline, Bullying/Violence, Family/Parental Involvement, Study Skills, Life Skills Training

Starting Date: 1987
Students Served Per Year: 500+
Last Verified: 2010

Risk Factors:

Protective Factors:

Program addresses the following:

Individual factors

  • High-risk social behavior
  • Retention/overage for grade
  • Poor attendance
  • Lack of effort
  • No extracurricular participation
  • Misbehavior
  • Early aggression

Family factors

  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Low education level of parents
  • Large number of siblings
  • Not living with both natural parents
  • Family disruption
  • Low educational expectations
  • Lack of conversations about school

School factors

  • Limited resources: expenditures per student/ teacher salaries/ student-teacher ratios
  • Race/ethnicity
  • School math achievement
  • School policies and practices

Community factors

  • Local labor market/neighborhood stability
  • Youth social attitudes

Program promotes the following:


  • Involvement with positive peer activities
  • Perception of support from adults and peers


  • Healthy/conventional beliefs and standards
  • Positive/resilient temperament


  • Social competencies
  • Self efficacy


  • Problem-solving skills
  • Flexibility


  • High expectations by community, family, school, and self
  • Optimistic

Program Resources:

Annual Cost:

The annual cost range of the program is less than $25,000 or less than $500 per student.

Funding Sources Include:

Program Staff Includes:

Federal Agencies
State Agencies
Local/City/County Agencies
School Districts
Faith Based Organizations
Service Clubs

School Administrators

Materials Used:

Supporting / Partner Organizations:

Instructional Texts/Manuals


Evaluation Information:

In one research study, after one year of Open Circle participants showed significantly greater teacher-reported improvements in both social skills and problem behaviors than did control group members. Although the largest gains were made by students in urban areas, significant positive effects of program participation were shown by all students, regardless of school setting. In another research study, middle school girls who had previously participated in at least two years of Open Circle showed a significant increase in self-assertiveness when compared to non-participants. Middle school boys with at least two years of Open Circle reported higher levels of social skill and self-control and fewer problems with physical fighting. In a survey of 670 teachers who have participated in Open Circle training, a majority of participants reported increases in students' self-control, cooperation, problem solving, and effective communication, and decreases in teasing, bullying, and exclusion of peers.

How evaluation data was collected:

Additional Evaluation Information: