WWC review of this study

Efficacy trial of the Second Step Early Learning (SSEL) curriculum: Preliminary outcomes [Second Step: Social-Emotional Skills for Early Learning vs. business as usual (Creative Curriculum)]

Upshur, C. C., Heyman, M., and Wenz-Gross, M. (2017). Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 50, 15–25. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED573440

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    411
     Students
    , grade
    PK

Reviewed: November 2021

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Self-regulation outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Backward Digit Span

Second Step Early Learning (SSEL) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
410 students

1.40

1.23

No

--
More Outcomes

Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS)

Second Step Early Learning (SSEL) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
410 students

18.76

15.19

No

--
Social-Emotional Learning outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Challenging Situations Task: Prosocial

Second Step Early Learning (SSEL) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
411 students

2.80

2.64

No

--
More Outcomes

Emotion Matching Task: Short Form

Second Step Early Learning (SSEL) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
409 students

23.99

24.06

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 50%
    Male: 50%
    • B
    • A
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    • F
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    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
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    • c
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    • l
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    • w
    • y

    Massachusetts
  • Race
    Asian
    2%
    Black
    26%
    Other or unknown
    24%
    White
    47%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    39%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    61%

Setting

The study was implemented in 31 classrooms in Head Start and community preschools serving low-income families.

Study sample

Demographic information was only provided for the baseline sample. Only 4-year-old children were included in this study; the mean age of the baseline sample was 53 months (SD = 3.96). Of the baseline sample, 50.2% of students were male. The racial composition of the baseline sample was 47.4% White, 26.4% Black, 1.8% Asian, and 24.4% other or unspecified.

Intervention Group

The intervention condition received the Second Step Early Learning curriculum (SSEL), which includes 28 weekly themes with scripted activities for 5 days of the week. Intervention teachers were asked to add SSEL activities into their daily lessons and to integrate SSEL with other curriculum requirements. Most classrooms used Creative Curriculum, because it was a state early childhood quality requirement. Other classrooms used Head Start frameworks. Daily components include theme-related songs and "Brain Builder" games. The curriculum has five major units: (a) Skills for Learning; (b) Empathy; (c) Emotion Management; (d) Friendship Skills and Problem Solving; and (e) Transition to Kindergarten. Each unit provides ideas on how to connect weekly themes to other curriculum goals in literacy, math, science, and social studies. Suggested teaching strategies involve providing specific reinforcement for positive behavior, helping children pay attention, encouraging participation, and integrating skills throughout the day. Intervention includes whole class and small group activities.

Comparison Group

The comparison condition was business-as-usual. Most classrooms used Creative Curriculum because it was a state early childhood quality requirement. Other classrooms used Head Start frameworks.

Support for implementation

Teachers were provided SSEL curriculum kits along with a story book for each lesson. Teachers participated in seven monthly 2-hour evening trainings over the course of a year. Study staff visited each intervention classroom once a month (November-May). During visits, study staff conducted observations and provided teachers individual coaching and written feedback on curriculum implementation.

Reviewed: November 2017

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Executive functioning outcomes—Substantively important positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Backward Digit Span

IES Funded Studies vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
410 students

1.39

1.23

No

--
Social-emotional competence outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Emotion Matching Scale

IES Funded Studies vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
409 students

24.02

24.06

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 50%
    Male: 50%
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
    • g
    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    Massachusetts
  • Race
    Asian
    2%
    Black
    26%
    Other or unknown
    4%
    White
    47%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    39%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    61%

Setting

This study was conducted in 31 classrooms in Head Start and community schools serving students ages 3-5. Some of the classrooms were in Massachusetts.

Study sample

All of the sample members were 4 years old. At baseline, 50.2% of the sample were male, with similar proportions in the treatment and comparison groups. Children's ethnicity were as follows: 47.4% were White, 26.4% were African American, 38.8% were Hispanic, and 1.8% were Asian. 60.8% of the sample had a family income below $20,000.

Intervention Group

The Second Step Early Learning (SSEL) curriculum consists of daily lessons based on 28 weekly themes on topics such as learning skills, managing emotions, relationship building, and preparation for kindergarten. The curriculum has short and varied activities that children work on in large and small groups, as well as scripted instructions and activities that teachers may use in instruction. It covers five major units including: Skills for Learning, Empathy, Emotion Management, Friendship Skills, and Transition to Kindergarten. Teachers in the intervention group added the SSEL curriculum activities to their instructional day and integrated these activities into other curriculum requirements.

Comparison Group

The comparison condition was the usual curriculum used by the school. The majority of the classrooms used the state-mandated early childhood curriculum, the Creative Curriculum (Teaching Strategies, LLC, 2002–2012). The other classrooms used the Head Start frameworks.

Support for implementation

Teachers in the intervention group were given SSEL curriculum kits and a storybook for each lesson. Ongoing implementation of the curriculum was supported by 2 years of professional development activity. In the first year of the study, group training was provided to teachers in seven monthly 2-hour sessions. In the second year of the study, five trainings were conducted. The intervention classrooms were also visited 6-7 times a year by study staff, who provided individual coaching and written feedback to teachers on the implementation of the curriculum. The study staff were trained by the curriculum developers.

 

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