Social Emotional Learning in MontcoPA
Behavioral health occurs across a continuum with promotion and prevention of emotional health at the beginning and core of the spectrum. HHS is involved in upstream prevention and promotion to decrease barriers and improve supports to allow people to achieve their full health potential.
What is SEL?
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines social and emotional learning (SEL) as follows: The process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions (2017).
In a study by Columbia University, Weissberg (2016) emphasizes that greater social and emotional competence can increase the likelihood of educational and personal outcomes, such as: high school graduation, readiness for postsecondary education, career success, positive family and work relationships, improved mental health, reduced criminal behavior, and engaged civic participation.
Incorporating social-emotional learning into the school day increases students’ success in school and daily life. Students are able to:
- Understand and regulate themselves
- Understand the perspectives of others and relate effectively with them
- Make sound choices about personal and social decisions
Weissberg (2016) highlights a range of other benefits, including:
- More positive attitudes toward oneself, others, and tasks including enhanced self-efficacy, confidence, persistence, empathy, connection and commitment to school, and a sense of purpose
- More positive social behaviors and relationships with peers and adults, including kindness, empathy, and sharing
- Reduced conduct problems and risk-taking behavior
- Decreased emotional distress, including reduced depression and stress
- Improved test scores, grades, and attendance
The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to supporting the development of students’ social-emotional skills through teacher-led and provider-led lessons. Second Step, developed by Committee for Children, is the program selected for implementation in Montgomery County.
Second Step is a research-based social-emotional learning curriculum with units intended to help K – 5 students build empathy, emotion management, friendship skills, and problem-solving skills over 22-25 lessons. Students’ skill development is reinforced through brain builder games, weekly theme activities, and Home links. Second Step connects new skills to other instructional areas (literacy, arts) and provides a structure for every day of the school week.
Last school year, data collected for this program and analyzed by Temple University and West Ed, has shown to have positive outcomes for our students. The data analysis indicated the results from the Second Step program increased students' social-emotional competence. For more information on the data and its analysis, click here.
HHS is preventing student mental health concerns through the delivery of the Second Step program in schools throughout Montgomery County. There are two methods of delivery financially supported by HHS and are outlined below:
Contracted Provider-led instruction
- Funding from PA’s Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs (DDAP)
- Montgomery County Office of Drug & Alcohol contracted agencies deliver Second Step lessons in classrooms
- Funding: 3-year grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) called STOP School Violence and Mental Health Training Program awarded to HHS
- Grant activities support the expansion of the capacity within Montgomery County to deliver the Second Step program
- Teachers are trained to implement the program in their own classrooms