The Health Foundation for Western and Central New York and the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation know young
children need to be ready for kindergarten not just academically, but socially and emotionally ready, too.
So they became partners to co-fund the Positive Emotional Development and Learning Skills (PEDALS) project
to find a way to help prepare children for this important step in their lives.
Through PEDALS, early childhood educators learn how to use evidence-based social-emotional learning curricula
and assessments in their classrooms. During the first year of the program (2012), the two foundations and
Project Director Meghan Guinnee helped teachers implement PEDALS at eight early learning sites in western
New York, offering sites a choice of two programs to teach to the more than 700 children in their classrooms.
Six of the centers chose Second Step, and two chose PATHS. They also administered the Devereux
Early Childhood Assessment (DECA), which measures social-emotional protective factors in young children,
at the beginning, middle, and end of the year.
Teachers who used Second Step taught all the Weekly Themes in order, repeating them as needed. In
the first year, each teacher met an average of nine times with an assigned coach, who provided ongoing guidance
and support. The coaches helped with the curriculum, helped teachers deal with problem behaviors, and assisted
with the DECA and data collection.
The results? Most notably, after one year there was a remarkable 57 percent decrease in the number of children
in the PEDALS program who had social-emotional needs (as measured by the DECA) and a 31 percent drop in the
number of children with self-control problems. One teacher said, “I have noticed that before PEDALS, things
in class were more chaotic, but now things are more quiet and students are able to talk through situations
with each other.”
But Guinnee’s favorite piece of evidence is that “at the beginning of the school year, PEDALS children had more
social-emotional needs than children nationally; by the end of the school year, PEDALS children were demonstrating
less need than children nationally.”
“The teachers love PEDALS, and they love Second Step as well,” adds Guinnee. One teacher raved, “Wow, this is
exactly what this age group needs. It’s been a huge benefit to the children here.”
And happily, the PEDALS project seems to be doing exactly what Guinnee and her colleagues hoped: increasing school
readiness in young children. And the teachers agree; as one says, “It’s going to help them to be more ready
to learn in kindergarten.”
Learn more about Second Step Social-Emotional Learning for Early Learning.
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