Western NY

Community Funding for SEL and PEDALS

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.

Widespread Implementation and Assessment

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.

Coached for Success

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.

By the Numbers

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.”

“A Huge Benefit to the Children”

“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.”