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Program Profile: Second Step for Elementary School (2011 Edition)

Evidence Rating: No Effects - One study No Effects - One study

Date: This profile was posted on October 02, 2017

Program Summary

This is a school-based, social–emotional learning program for elementary school students. Teachers incorporate 25-40-minute lessons within the usual classroom curriculum. The program is rated No Effects. The treatment group displayed a statistically significant reduction in hyperactivity; however, there were no statistically significant differences between the treatment and control groups on measures of conduct problems, peer problems, social–emotional competence, or disruptive behaviors.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals
Second Step (2011 edition) is a school-based, social-emotional learning (SEL) program for early elementary school students. The goal of this skills-focused, prevention program is to improve SEL outcomes and decrease instances of disruptive behavior among students. This edition of the program includes several revisions from previous editions; the most noteworthy is the addition of content related to three self-regulation skills (attention, working memory, inhibitory control) addressed in the first unit of each grade.
Program Activities/Target Population
The target population for the Second Step program is kindergarten through second-grade students. There are separate curricula for each grade, which allow teachers to deliver instruction that is developmentally appropriate and relevant. The curriculum includes 22 lessons organized into four units. These include 1) Skills for Learning, 2) Empathy, 3) Emotion Management, and 4) Problem Solving. Lessons are 25–40 minute and are incorporated into regular, daily classroom activity by teachers once a week.
A range of SEL skills and behaviors are taught and practiced, including being respectful, managing disappointment, and making friends. The program also includes scripted lesson cards, posters that outline learned skills, DVDs that illustrate certain skills, brain-builder games to increase retention and use of skills, and a binder with other materials for the program. 
Program Theory
The program was developed to account for a wide variance in social–emotional readiness in children when starting school. These differences in social–emotional readiness have been shown to worsen over time, if not addressed early. This program is based on the belief that students who receive direct instruction and reinforcement of SEL practices will exhibit improved behavioral and academic outcomes (Low et al. 2015).

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Low and colleagues (2015) found that although students who participated in the Second Step for Elementary School (2011 edition) showed a statistically significant decrease in hyperactivity behavior, there were no statistically significant impacts on other measures of behavior. Overall, the preponderance of evidence suggests the program had no effects on students’ behaviors.
Students in the early-start treatment group demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in hyperactive behavior, compared with students in the delayed-start control group.
Conduct Problems
There were no statistically significant differences in measures of conduct problems between students who were in the early-start treatment group and students in the delayed-start control group. 
Peer Problems
There were no statistically significant differences in measures of peer problems between students in the treatment group and students in the control group. 
There were no statistically significant differences in measures of social–emotional outcomes between students in the treatment group and students in the control group. 
Disruptive Behavior
There were no statistically significant differences in measures of disruptive behavior between students in the treatment group and students in the control group.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Using a matched, randomized-control design, Low and colleagues (2015) evaluated the elementary version of Second Step (2011 edition). A total of 61 schools across districts in Arizona (1 district) and Washington State (5 districts) participated in the study. Both urban and rural settings were represented. After accounting for attrition, 319 teachers (223 from Washington, 96 from Arizona) participated and 6,558 students (4,232 from Washington, 2,326 from Arizona) participated. The 61 schools were randomly assigned to either the early-start treatment group (n=31) or the delayed-start control group (n=30). Schools were paired and matched based on percentage of nonwhite students and participation in free and reduced lunch. No significant differences were found between treatment and control groups.  

Students in the study were in kindergarten through second grade. The sample in Arizona was 40.1 percent white, 0.3 percent Asian, 5.9 percent African American, 47.1 percent Latino/a, 6.3 percent Native American, 0.3 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 10.1 percent unknown. The sample in Washington was 45.8 percent white, 18.2 percent Asian, 8.1 percent African American, 14.7 percent Latino/a, 1.6 percent Native American, and 1.7 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; in addition, 9.9 percent reported more than one race, and 20.4 percent were unknown. 
Fall 2012 and spring 2013 data was collected for baseline and follow-up observations, respectively. Student behavior was measured using the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) via online surveys completed by teachers. The Strengths Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was also completed by teachers to measure student behavior. 
A behavioral observation system was implemented and conducted by trained graduate students who coded their observations of students as either on-task, off-task, or disruptive. This system was developed based on the Behavioral Observation for Students in Schools (BOSS). Students were observed for 2 minutes total across 10-second intervals. Data was then analyzed using a mixed-model, time x condition analysis.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Online training assistance and Spanish translations are available at the Committee for Children Web site:  

More information is also available at the Second Step Web site:
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Low, Sabina, Clayton R. Cook, Keith Smolkowski, and Jodie Buntain-Ricklefs. 2015. “Promoting Social–Emotional Competence: An Evaluation of the Elementary Version of Second Step.” Journal of School Psychology 53:463–77.

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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

School-Based Bullying Prevention Programs
Aim to reduce bullying and victimization (being bullied) in school settings. Some interventions aim to increase positive involvement in the bullying situation from bystanders or witnesses. The practice is rated Effective for reducing bullying, bullying victimization, and for increasing the likelihood of a bystander to intervene. The practice is rated No Effects for increasing bystander empathy for victims of bullying.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Bullying
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Victimization - Being Bullied
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Victimization - Bystander Intervention
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Empathy for the Victim

School-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs
Designed to foster the development of five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies, in order to provide a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance in students, which can result in more positive social behaviors, fewer conduct problems, and less emotional distress. The practice was rated Effective in reducing students’ conduct problems and emotional stress.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Multiple juvenile problem/at-risk behaviors
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Internalizing behavior
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Program Snapshot

Age: 5 - 8

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Rural, Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Classroom Curricula, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, School/Classroom Environment, Bullying Prevention/Intervention, Violence Prevention

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide, National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices