“I have learned how to control my feelings better. RULER has helped me to think more positive things in life. It has made me a kinder person.” Elementary student

Mission and Vision

This new collaboration between the Bridgeport Public Schools and Yale University is designed to help the school district implement and integrate a social-emotional learning program called RULER that was developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence uses the power of emotions to create a more effective and compassionate society. The Center conducts research and teaches people of all ages how to develop their emotional intelligence. They do this work because the well-being and sustainability of our society depends on each of us using our emotions intelligently.

The RULER approach to social and emotional learning is an outgrowth of decades of research on emotional intelligence conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. This research has proven that emotional skills are integral to personal, social, and academic success. Since 2005, hundreds of schools in the United States and abroad have adopted RULER to successfully integrate social and emotional learning. Founded in 2005 by Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Center for Emotional Intelligence, RULER stands out not only because the programs are theoretically grounded and research-based, but because of its team of world-class educators, school administrators, and researchers.


Partnership Overview

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, in partnership with the Yale University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and the Bridgeport Public School System, will be implementing RULER, the Center for Emotional Intelligence’s evidence-based, train-the-trainer approach to social and emotional learning. This new collaboration is designed to help Bridgeport, Connecticut public schools integrate RULER and develop a sustainable framework for the evaluation and performance management of essential life skills, social and emotional learning, and school climate outcomes.

Working with senior researchers in the School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and with staff of the Bridgeport Public Schools, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence will implement RULER programming, which is based on the notion that when students can recognize, understand, and regulate their emotions effectively, they can persevere and succeed. This partnership will also lead to the creation and implementation of a performance management tracking system that will allow teachers and administrators to collect and use data from students, teachers, and parents to evaluate the impacts of RULER as well as academic progress. The data collected will also support future evaluation of student outcomes including life skills and social emotional skills, as well as school climate outcomes.

Supported by the leadership of the Bridgeport Public Schools, the Yale partnership will begin its work with training and coaching of all school principals and assistant principals, and the creation of a stakeholder-wide SEL Task Force to support implementation. Then, in 2015-16 the Yale team will support district-wide RULER roll-out, using a train-the-trainer model to ensure sustainability and fidelity of implementation.


Grades served: Pre-K through 12

Number of total students served in grades Pre-K-12: 21,000

Number of students served in grades K-8: 15,900

Number of students served in grades K-5: 10,600

Geographic area: Bridgeport-wide

Percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch: 100%


Michael J. Strambler, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Yale University School of Medicine (Project Co-Director)

Michael J. Strambler is an Assistant Professor at Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. He earned his B.A. from Morehouse College, his M.A. in Psychology from Stony Brook University, and his Ph.D. in Clinical and Community Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Strambler’s research interests concern understanding and addressing achievement disparities, especially among ethnic minority and at-risk youth. He has a particular interest in how social environments and the dynamics that occur within them play a role in academic underperformance and how this problem can be addressed by school interventions and school reform efforts. His experience in applied research, program evaluation, and program design in these areas has spanned from elementary school to undergraduate education. Dr. Strambler has earned awards from the Ford Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation, and the American Psychological Foundation. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and chapters in such publications as Contemporary Educational Psychology, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Child Development, American Psychologist, and The Handbook of Race, Racism and the Developing Child. Dr. Strambler will co-direct the management of the proposed work including overseeing the planning, implementation, evaluation, and reporting involved in carrying-out the work. He will play a key role in data management/evaluation and capacity-building aspects of the proposed work.


Dena Simmons, Ed.D., Director of Education, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence
 (Project Co-Director)

Dena Simmons, Ed.D., is a lifelong activist, educator, and student of life. A native of the Bronx, New York, Dena grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with her two sisters and immigrant mother. There, Dena learned and lived the violence of injustice and inequity and decided to dedicate her life to educating and empowering others. As the Director of Education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, she works with schools to use the power of emotions to create a more effective and compassionate society. Prior to her work at the Center, Dena served as an educator, teacher educator, diversity facilitator, and curriculum developer. She has been a leading voice on teacher education and has written and spoken across the country about social justice pedagogy, diversity, education reform, and bullying in K-12 school settings, including two TEDx talks. Dena has been profiled in the AOL/PBS project, MAKERS: Women Who Make America, and a Beacon Press Book, Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists. Dena is a recipient of a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a J. William Fulbright Fellowship, an Education Pioneers Fellowship, a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, a Phillips Exeter Academy Dissertation Fellowship, and an Arthur Vining Davis Aspen Fellowship among others. She has her doctorate degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. Dena’s research interests include teacher preparedness to address bullying in the K-12 school setting and social and emotional learning (SEL) interventions—all in an effort to ensure and foster justice and safe spaces for all.


Fran Rabinowitz, Interim Superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools

Frances M. Rabinowitz is the Interim Superintendent of the Bridgeport Public Schools (BPS). Prior to joining the BPS in March 2014, Fran served as Superintendent of the Hamden School District since 2007. From 2003 to 2007, Fran worked as associate commissioner in the division of teaching, learning and assessment for the State Department of Education. From 2002 to 2003, she served as the State Department of Education’s chief of the bureau of curriculum and instruction. Prior to that role, Fran worked for 29 years with BPS, where she held various posts, including: interim assistant superintendent of secondary schools, executive director of teaching and learning, director of evaluation and research, testing assistant, and teacher. She received her Bachelor of Arts and Certification in Elementary Education from Sacred Heart University, and her Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance, as well as her Sixth Year Studies and Intermediate Certification in Administration and Supervision, from Fairfield University.

News and Updates

"Yale launches new Center for Emotional Intelligence"

Yale Daily News (10/8/2013) - Since its official opening on Oct. 1, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has been in a constant flurry of activity. Read full article.

“'Emotional Intelligence' Gains Traction"

New Haven Independent (10/3/2013) - Yale has launched a new Center for Emotional Intelligence with a goal to help 300,000 kids in Connecticut. Read full article.

"Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?"

New York Times Magazine (9/11/2013) - One day last spring, James Wade sat cross-legged on the carpet and called his kindergarten class to order. Read full article.

Tauck Family Foundation Investment

In 2013, Tauck Family Foundation invited Yale University to join its portfolio and implement a new partnership between Yale and the Bridgeport Public Schools. This investment includes:

  • $100,000 per year (for 3-5 years) to Yale University in targeted operating support for the implementation of RULER in the Bridgeport Public Schools.
  • Capacity building support to the partnership, including strategy/program design and implementation consultation, as well as performance management support tools.
  • Collaboration with Child Trends in the design, use, implementation, and refinement of the instrument that Child Trends developed to measure and monitor five social and emotional skills in a performance management setting.