This is a universal, school-based social-emotional learning program aimed at reducing violence and encouraging academic success among middle school students. The program is rated No Effects. While the program had a statistically significant impact on reducing physical aggression, there was no statistically significant impact on sexual-violence victimization and perpetration, peer victimization, bullying victimization and perpetration, cyberbullying, or homophobic name calling.
This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.
Program Goals/Target Population
Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention (SS-SSTP) Middle School Program is a universal, school-based social-emotional learning program aimed at reducing violence and encouraging academic success among students. SS-SSTP also indirectly addresses school violence by including lessons related to bullying.
SS-SSTP includes two separate lesson plans: 1) for grade 6 (15 lessons), and 2) for grades 7 and 8 (13 lessons). Each 50-minute lesson can be divided into two, 25-minute classroom sessions. Lessons are taught weekly or semiweekly throughout the school year, and include direct instruction, group discussions, dyadic exercises, reflection, role playing, and independent work. There are also homework assignments, extension activities, and academic integration lessons. Each lesson has an accompanying DVD that depicts interviews with middle school youths and demonstrations of skills.
Each grade’s curriculum includes topics related to social-emotional skill development and bullying prevention. The social-emotional skill development component of SS-SSTP includes lessons about empathy, assertive communication, emotional regulation, and problem solving. In contrast, the bullying-prevention lessons vary by grade. The sixth-grade bullying curriculum only includes lessons related to recognizing bullying and to bystander intervention. The seventh-grade bullying lessons encompass topics such as responding to bullying, cyberbullying, and sexual harassment.
The SS-SSTP curriculum is interactive and skills-based. Students receive dynamic feedback on their performance and engage in collaborative work throughout the program, ensuring that each skill is acquired and reinforced.
SS-SSTP is based on the literature that shows that certain risk and protective factors are found to increase or decrease the likelihood of problem or delinquent behaviors, including aggression, violence, and substance use (Fraser 1997). The program targets specific risk and protective factors among youth that are related to violence, aggression, and substance use. Risk factors identified by the program include favorable attitudes toward problem behaviors (such as aggression or substance abuse), inappropriate classroom behavior, peer rejection, and impulsiveness. Protective factors that are targeted include social skills, school connectedness and engagement with teachers and positive peers, and adoption of conventional norms about substance abuse and school achievement.
SS-SSTP also takes a public health approach, which encourages teaching youths the social skills necessary to handle negative or uncomfortable social situations. Further, the structure of SS-SSTP is based on social learning theory, which suggests that the lessons should be skills-based, and skills should be reinforced through positive and negative cueing and group work (Bandura 1977).
Across the studies on the Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention (SS-SSTP) Middle School Program, the data showed statistically significant impacts on only some measured behaviors. However, there were no statistically significant differences between the intervention and control groups on most outcomes. The preponderance of evidence suggests the program did not affect students’ behavior.
Espelage and colleagues (2013) found that students from intervention schools had a statistically significantly decreased probability of reporting physical aggression at the 1-year follow up. Students in SS-SSTP were 42 percent less likely to self-report physical aggression after 1 year, compared with students who were not enrolled in the program.
Verbal/Relational Bully Perpetration
There were no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention group and students in the control group regarding verbal/relational bully perpetration.
Similarly, there were no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and control groups regarding peer victimization.
Sexual Violence Perpetration
There were also no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and control groups regarding sexual- violence perpetration.
Sexual Violence Victimization
Finally, there were no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and control groups regarding sexual- violence victimization.
At the 2-year follow-up, Espelage and colleagues (2015a) found there were no statistically significant differences between students in the SS-SSTP intervention group and students in the control group regarding bullying perpetration.
Similarly, there were no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and control groups regarding bullying victimization.
There were also no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and control groups regarding physical aggression.
Additionally, there were no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and control groups regarding sexual-violence perpetration. However, there were significant differences found by site. Specifically, students who received the SS-SSTP intervention in Illinois schools were about 39 percent less likely to endorse sexual violence perpetration than students who did not receive the intervention. There were no significant differences found for students in Kansas school.
Finally, there were no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and control groups regarding sexual-violence victimization.
At the 3-year follow-up, Espelage and colleagues (2015b) found there were no statistically significant differences between students in the SS-SSTP intervention group and students in the control group regarding bullying perpetration.
Similarly, there were no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and control groups regarding cyberbullying.
There were also no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and control groups regarding sexual harassment.
Finally, there were no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and control groups regarding homophobic name-calling.
Espelage and colleagues (2013) used a longitudinal nested-cohort design with randomization at the school level to examine the impact of Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention (SS-SSTP) on middle school students. The study presented first-year results of the 3-year trial. Students participated in the program from September 2010 to May 2011.
All sixth graders (N = 3,616) at 36 midwestern schools across Illinois and Kansas were recruited for the study. In each state, data from the National Center for Educational Statistics was used to match schools into pairs based on the characteristics of the school environment (e.g., student enrollment) and characteristics of the student population (e.g., ethnic/racial composition). A random number table was used to randomly assign one school to the intervention condition (SS-SSTP) and the other to a wait-list control condition.
The final analysis sample included 18 schools from both the intervention (n = 1,940 students) and control (n = 1,676 students) groups. Information from pretest or posttest surveys indicated that there were no significant differences among students in either group regarding age, gender, or economic status. Roughly half of the students were female, the average age was 11 years old, and over 70 percent of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. At the student level, the intervention group was 32 percent Hispanic, 25 percent African American, 28.2 percent white, and 14.8 biracial/other race. The control group was 36.6 percent Hispanic, 28.1 percent African American, 20.6 percent white, and 14.6 biracial/other race. There were more Hispanic students than white students in the control group, but the effect size was small and controlled for in the analysis of outcomes.
The primary outcomes of interests were verbal/relational bullying, peer victimization, physical aggression, sexual harassment/violence perpetration, and sexual harassment/violence victimization. Verbal/relational bullying perpetration was measured using the 9-item University of Illinois Bully Scale, while peer victimization was assessed using the 3-item University of Illinois Victimization Scale. Physical aggression was measured based on the 4-item University of Illinois Fighting Scale. Finally, sexual harassment/violence perpetration and victimization were measured using a modified version of the American Association of University Women Sexual Harassment Survey.
Conditional hierarchical generalized linear models (HGLM) were used to control for student and school demographic characteristics and examine the equivalency in pretest levels in the seven outcome measures. Intent-to-treat analysis was used to analyze the outcomes. Further, since all outcome variables had a positive skew, they were converted to binary responses and analyzed using an HGLM with logit link.
Espelage and colleagues (2015a) examined the impact of the program 2 years after implementation of SS-SSTP. Specifically, this study examined outcome data from Wave 3. The 2-year follow-up study used the same outcome measures as the 1-year follow-up study (Espelage et al. 2013).
At the beginning of the study, there were a total of 3,658 student participants. By the final analysis for the 2-year follow up, there were 3,705 students, including 2,029 students in the intervention group and 1,676 students in the control group.
Dichotomized outcomes were measured using a logit link, with Wave 3 measures serving as the outcome. The Level 1 model included all schools from both states, while the Level 2 model was an intervention condition by state interaction term. To account for state differences and treatment variability, interaction analyses by state were conducted. The state-specific model only differed when the state and state-by-intervention condition interaction terms were not included. Results for combined state models were presented, as well as separately by state when the intervention condition and state interaction was significant.
Espelage and colleagues (2015b) examined the impact of SS-SSTP 3 years after implementation, looking at the fourth wave of panel data. Specifically, this study examined outcome data from Wave 4.
At the beginning of the study, there were a total of 3,658 student participants. By the final analysis for the 3-year follow up, there were 3,651 students, including 1,941 students in the intervention group and 1,710 students in the control group. Analyses included examining the direct and indirect effects of SS-SSTP, and delinquency was evaluated as an intervening variable instead of a mediator.
The survey questionnaire included questions about involvement in bullying, cyberbullying, homophobic name-calling, sexual-harassment perpetration, and measures of delinquency. This follow-up study used the same outcome measures as the previous studies (Espelage et al. 2013, Espelage et al. 2015a). In addition, homophobic name-calling perpetration was measured using a 5-item agent scale.
The analysis included a two-phase analysis, where the first phase used a two-level, random-effects model to look at the direct program effects on key outcome variables at Wave 4. The second phase examined indirect program effects on key outcome by means of changes to individual trajectories of delinquency across Waves 1, 2, and 3, also using a random-effects model.
The Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention (SS-SSTP) Middle School Program student kit (grades 6–8) can be purchased at the Committee for Children online store (https://store.cfchildren.org/second-step-middle-school-bundle-grades-68-p312.aspx) for $1,179.00. Classroom kits for each grade ($429.00) and posters (starting at $28.00) can also be purchased separately.
Teachers administer the lessons included in the Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention (SS-SSTP) curriculum. They receive a 3- to 4-hour training session that covers the curriculum, program delivery, and information on child development stages and bullying research. They are also given suggestions on how to connect lessons to events of the day and revisit skills as necessary based on actual student conflicts.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
Espelage, Dorothy L., Sabina Low, Joshua R. Polanin, and Eric C. Brown. 2013. "The Impact of a Middle School Program to Reduce Aggression, Victimization, and Sexual Violence." Journal of Adolescent Health
Espelage, Dorothy L., Sabina Low, Joshua R. Polanin, and Eric C. Brown. 2015a. “Clinical Trial of Second Step© Middle-school Program: Impact on Aggression and Victimization.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Espelage, Dorothy L., Sabina Low, Mark J. Van Ryzin, and Joshua R. Polanin, 2015b. “Clinical Trial of Second Step Middle School Program: Impact on Bullying, Cyberbullying, Homophobic Teasing, and Sexual Harassment Perpetration.” School Psychology Review
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Bandura, Albert. 1977. “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change.” Psychological Review
Fraser, Mark W. (ed.). 1997. Risk and Resilience in Childhood: An Ecological Perspective. Washington, D.C.: NASW Press.
Ybarra, M. L., Dorothy L. Espelage, and K. J. Mitchell. 2007. “The Co-occurrence of Internet Harassment and Unwanted Sexual Solicitation Victimization and Perpetration: Associations with Psychosocial Indicators.” Journal of Adolescent Health