SAMHSA’s review of the impact of prevention programs on school success (PDF) found that the effective programs yielded positive results, such as improved graduation rates and decreased dropout and grade retentions. School connectedness is strongly influenced by students’ relations with their peers and teachers. Students need social-emotional skills to stay connected with and ultimately succeed in their learning environment. Committee for Children programs teach these skills.
Strengthening Protective Factors
The Second Step program can help strengthen protective factors that can increase students’ academic achievement and school connectedness. The Skills for Learning taught in the early learning and K–5 lessons and the Brain Builder games in early learning and K–3 strengthen core self-regulation competencies that help students learn—such as listening, following directions, and paying attention.
In addition, Second Step lessons help students learn how to get along with peers, manage their emotions, ask adults for help, solve problems, and cope with stress, all of which can help build students’ bonds to their school and to the students and teachers in it. The middle school curricula also include lessons on drug and alcohol abuse prevention and cyber bullying, two powerful risk factors that alienate students from school.
Some students drop out specifically because of bullying, a problem that can be addressed by the Steps to Respect program. The program trains all staff to respond to bullying among students in respectful and effective ways, which can improve the rapport between students and adults and thus increase students’ connection to school.
The Teaching Guides included with the early learning and K–8 Second Step program also contain information on creating school policies, handling bullying incidents, and coaching the students involved. In addition, the middle school Second Step program addresses bullying and cyber bullying.
Studies show that having even one friend can lessen the harmful effects of bullying, which is one reason why both the Second Step and Steps to Respect programs teach friendship skills.