Devereux Center for Effective Schools helps successfully implement SEL program in PA middle school
“My students want to be leaders and do the work needed to make their school and classrooms safe and inclusive. The Second Step program gives them the space to learn how to do this, and it provides them with information and tools they can use to become the leaders they want to be.”
With support from a $60,000 grant from All Points North Foundation, the Devereux Center for Effective Schools (CES) has helped to successfully implement the Second Step social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum in five middle schools in Montgomery County, including Stewart Middle School.
CES provides training, coaching, and technical assistance to teachers as they implement the program throughout the school year.
Across Montgomery County, Second Step has been implemented in kindergarten through fifth grades, and previous program evaluation data have demonstrated, after Second Step, students exhibited stronger social-emotional capacity, on average, and nearly all students demonstrated either typical capacity or strength in their social-emotional capacity. In addition, increases were observed for each of the eight student social-emotional behaviors measured by the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA)-mini. Stewart Middle School is part of the expansion of Second Step programming into middle schools through the support of All Points North Foundation.
“Stewart Middle School began implementing Second Step in the fall,” said CES Director Lisa Thomas, Ph.D., NCSP. “Currently, more than 20 teachers are delivering the program one day per week. While implementation has been impacted by staffing shortages, as well as classroom and behavior management challenges, teachers continue to champion the program, demonstrating their steadfast commitment to their students’ social and emotional skill development.”
Norristown Area School District Instructional Support Teacher and Coach Dana DeMinico, Ed.D., serves as CES’ site contact for Second Step, and says she is pleased with the implementation.
“A majority of our teachers are implementing the lessons, and our students are responding positively,” DeMinico noted. “We have established a school-wide norm where all teachers provide the Second Step lesson during their WIN (What I Need) time on Mondays to ensure consistency for our students. We understand that fully effective implementation takes time, and so we are celebrating each success as we continue to move forward and improve.”
Engaging students in Second Step
Teachers at Stewart Middle School say students are engaged in the Second Step curriculum.
McGorry teaches sixth grade English language arts and shared, “My WIN group is responding well to Second Step. Students enjoy the videos, respond to the thinking and writing prompts independently or in small groups, and they like the culminating project or activity at the end of each unit. Recently, they worked on anti-bullying and bullying awareness posters.”
Seventh grade science teacher Brian Dooner says his students are benefitting from the program as well, and explained, “While some lessons are more engaging for my students than others, all students are able to make connections to the weekly themes. The Second Step lessons are helpful because as situations arise, we can reference past lessons. This helps my students make healthier choices and allows them the opportunity to reflect on their actions and behaviors.”
Supporting student success
As the implementation of Second Step at Stewart Middle School continues, DeMinico credits the CES team with helping teachers and students achieve success.
“A special thanks goes out to CES Training and Consulting Specialist Melody McBride-Bey, who has been an amazing support for us, providing resources, modeling lessons, and helping to connect the lessons to our Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) rewards program. Melody has been a welcome part of our community as we strive for more effective implementation,” DeMinico said. “At our school, the trauma that many of our students have experienced in their young lives is significant. In addition, our students are negotiating many complex stressors, everything from social media to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing students with a relevant SEL curriculum is one of our best avenues to support their emotional well-being, which will inevitably also support their academic success.”
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