Outcomes of an elementary grades social competence experiment according to student self-report
Harak, Elise Touris
Gottfredson, Gary D
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Problem behaviors that emerge in early childhood often persist through adolescence. Evaluations provide evidence that social skills programs in elementary schools can reduce student aggression. There is some evidence that social skills programs also increase social skills, academic commitment, and achievement. Outcome evaluations have more often focused on aggression than on social skills and academics, however. The present study is a randomized, controlled trial evaluating the effects of one popular social skills instructional program, Second Step, in six treatment and six control schools after two years of implementation. Despite the widespread use of Second Step, few evaluations have assessed its effects. The existing evaluations have either: (a) lacked randomization, (b) had small samples, (c) not measured implementation, or (d) were implemented for one year or less. In the present evaluation, implementation data were collected from all teachers as each lesson was completed. Overall implementation was high across two years. Treatment effects were assessed on nine self-report measures including Engagement in Learning, prosocial behaviors (Altruism, Empathy, and Self-Restraint) and problem behaviors and attitudes (Rebellious Behavior, Aggression, Victimization, Acceptability of Aggression, and Hostile Attribution Bias). Analyses completed using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) implied that treatment did not statistically significantly affect individual student self-reports net of individual characteristics. In almost all cases, the non-significant estimates of treatment effects were in the desired direction but mirrored non-significant pre-intervention differences.