Committee for Children Blog

Prevent Risky Behaviors and Promote Good Decision Making


I know why the Second Step middle school curriculum is on the 2015 CASEL list of effective SEL programs for middle school. Do you?

Whether this is your first time hearing about the Second Step middle school curriculum or you know of it and are looking to learn more about why it’s effective, these are some of the many reasons you should try it now.

Results from the most recently published 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBSS), given to students in grades 9–12, showed that:

  • 19.6 percent of students were bullied on school property (during the 12 months before the survey)
  • 8.1 percent of students were in a physical fight on school property (one or more times during the 12 months before the survey)
  • 8.6 percent of students tried marijuana before age 13

A Critical Age for Social Skills

Equipping students with social skills and strategies before high school can help prevent bullying, violence, and substance abuse and promote positive decision making for student success in school and life. The Second Step middle school curriculum specifically does this by teaching students lifelong social skills in the areas of:

  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Bullying prevention
  • Emotion management
  • Problem solving
  • Goal setting
  • Substance abuse prevention

42 Percent Less Physical Aggression
Teaching the Second Step middle school curriculum has been associated with significant decreases in student physical aggression. Such reductions were found within one year of implementation in a recent longitudinal study of 36 middle schools in Wichita and Chicago (Espelage, Low, Polanin, & Brown, 2013). Sixth-graders in schools that implemented the Second Step middle school program were 42 percent less likely to report engaging in physical aggression compared to sixth-graders in schools that didn’t implement the program.

20 Percent Reduction in Bullying
This curriculum is also connected to decreases in bullying. Espelage, Polanin, and Rose (2015), in a study of the Second Step middle school program, reported a 20 percent reduction in bullying by students with disabilities who were exposed to lessons from the sixth- through eighth-grade curriculum over three years. Read more about this study.

The Second Step middle school curriculum is a determining factor for student success. Explore this great resource by:

For additional information, please call Committee for Children at 800-634-4449 or email

Espelage, D. L., Polanin, J. R., & Rose, C. A. (2015). Social-emotional learning program to reduce bullying, fighting, and victimization among middle school students with disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 1–13, doi: 10.1177/0741932514564564

Espelage, D. L., Low, S., Polanin, J. R., & Brown, E. C. (2013). The impact of a middle school program to reduce aggression, victimization, and sexual violence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(2), 180–186.