"We have schools that are really starting to see some significant changes in regard to implementing with fidelity
the Second Step program and incorporating other supports for students. Using all those things in conjunction
. . . has helped to lower referrals to the student support teams, and therefore kids are doing better socially
and emotionally," says Anise Walker, director of training and prevention education for the Washington, DC-based
Student Support Center. Using funds from a Safe Schools, Healthy Students grant, the center provides training,
support, and technical assistance to District of Columbia charter schools implementing Second Step Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).
Recently, DC schools have been facing daunting challenges and lots of change. In spite of that, one of the center’s
charter schools reported that their office referrals dropped almost by half—from 12.3 percent to 7.1 percent—when
they implemented the program. A second school using the program started the school year with a relatively
low number of referrals—6.6 percent—but reduced it even further, to 4.8 percent.
A major factor in the schools’ success is the strong Second Step support system Walker’s team created. And one
of the most important parts of the support system is making sure each school has its own knowledgeable Second
Step coordinator to answer questions, relay information between the center and the schools, and ensure that
schools get what they need to teach the program. “About 90 percent of those people are trained Second Step
trainers . . . They have that deeper understanding of the curriculum and how it can be helpful, and they
can then pass that on to their own staff . . . We wanted them to have that in-staff capability and that
sustainability that will help them to be more effective in their implementation after our grant ends.”
Walker supports her coordinators with monthly meetings, where they can ask questions, bring up concerns, and
share successes, and after which they can bring new information back to school staff. Sarah Ghaleb, the center’s
director of quality assurance and evaluation, who has been collecting and analyzing data from the schools
to measure the program’s effects, stresses how important the meetings are for keeping the coordinators energized.
“We have Anise, who is our master trainer, and she thoroughly believes in the program. I mean, she is such
an advocate that she talks to anyone who will listen . . . And because of her dedication and her enthusiasm
and energy toward the program, she really gets these coordinators going.”
It was very important to Walker, Ghaleb, and others at the Student Support Center that there were additional
lines of communication open to teachers as well. Even the Second Step lesson-tracking forms used to document
implementation were made into communication tools. Ghaleb explains, “We have a space where they can write
in any comments or notes. A teacher will say, ‘I need another binder for this level,’ or ‘I need this video,’
or ‘I need something,’ so that way we can take care of it right away and give them the support that they
need. So it’s constant . . . back and forth; there’s always a communication exchange.”
Walker and Ghaleb are thrilled with the results so far. According to Ghaleb, “The administrators are happy, too.
The ones that really just put the things in place and made sure the teachers had the support that they needed;
they were very excited because they are seeing the difference in their kids.” Walker adds, “I do see that
the schools that have the buy-in and the schools that have the dedication to make sure it works, it works
. . . it’s doing something for these kids.”
Learn more about Second Step Social-Emotional Learning.
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