Children’s Bureau is proud to release data from its comprehensive school-based mental health program that shows a 50% drop in suspension rates and improved grade point averages (GPA).
In 2010, with funding from the Institute of Mental Hygiene (IMH), Children’s Bureau partnered with McDonogh City Park Academy (MCPA), a public elementary school in New Orleans, to develop a comprehensive program to promote social and emotional wellness and address barriers that prevent children from learning and functioning well. The program provided not only direct mental health intervention to students, but also engaged teachers and school staff to increase their capacity to foster the social, emotional, intellectual and behavioral development of students.
MCPA has 400 students of whom 93.25% are termed as “at-risk” by the Louisiana Department of Education.
“We’ve known for years that accessible, quality mental health supports can impact student behavior and enhance academic achievement,” said Carter. “With this project, we explored how best to work with school leaders to create a truly comprehensive approach to enhancing mental health and wellbeing.”
“We made a commitment to work this program from top to bottom at our school,” said MCPA’s Principal Christine Mitchell. “We made changes to academic programming and procedures, trained teachers and staff, and provided screenings and necessary interventions to students. It was no small undertaking, but the results have been well worth the effort.”
In addition to changes in academic programming and procedures, a three-tiered system of mental health services within MCPA was built to include:
Tier I: Universal screening for emotional and behavioral risk, teacher instruction of a social and emotional learning curriculum called Second Steps, and teacher professional development sessions to support trauma-informed approaches to classroom and student management.
Tier II:Teacher consultation to increase effectiveness in behavior management, support to the leadership team to address referrals for social, emotional, and behavioral student issues, and targeted skill building groups based on student need.
Tier III: Provision of individual and group therapy for students with intensive needs and referral to and coordination with community agencies to address specialized problems.
The partnership between MCPA and Children’s Bureau of New Orleans has been ongoing now for three academic years. Stacy Overstreet, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Tulane University’s Department of Psychology, is overseeing the evaluation of the program, and the first two years of data reveals the following:
Students who participated in both years of the project showed an indication of better behavior and increased learning:
There was more than a 50% reduction in suspensions from 2011-12.
Over the 2011-12 school year, student GPA increased an average of.081 points on the 4.0 scale. Over the 2012-13 school year, GPA increased an average of .13 points.
The project has also increased the commitment and capacity of teachers to foster social and emotional development of all students at MCPA.
- Survey results indicate growing teacher confidence in the Second Step curriculum. In January, 2013, only 34.7% of teachers agreed that Second Step equipped students with useful skills; in January, 2014, 68.4% agreed that Second Step was effective in helping students learn social and emotional skills.
Survey results also indicate growth in teacher competence delivering the Second Step curriculum. In January, 2013, 48% of teachers felt comfortable teaching the curriculum compared to 68.4% in January, 2014. In addition, the percentage of teachers who felt they had adequate time to deliver the lessons rose from 28% in January, 2013 to 42.1% in January, 2014.
During the 2013-12 academic year, three Second Step Peer Support Teachers were identified to provide mentoring and support to other teachers regarding implementation of the Second Step curriculum and integration of the content into other academic or classroom management activities. These “program champions” are fostering trust and collegiality, providing feedback regarding implementation, and facilitating open and frequent communication regarding the Second Step curriculum—all factors that should increase the impact of the curriculum on student outcomes.
Additionally, over the course of the partnership, MCPA’s School Performance Score increased from a grade of ‘F’ to a grade of ‘C’.
“It is our hope that this project will lead to the development of a successful collaborative model that can be duplicated at other school sites,” said Carter. “With the initial evidence that the model is effective in improving the social, emotional, behavioral and academic functioning of students, it is possible that other funding for this project can be obtained, so that we can impact more schools, more teachers and more students with this successful program.”