APA honors middle school for using psychological science to help students
Two years ago, Stanton Middle School in Wilmington,
Delaware, was underperforming academically compared
with state and national averages. Now, thanks to the school’s
evidence-based efforts to boost students’ social and emotional
growth so they can focus on learning, Stanton students are
outperforming those averages in both reading and math.
Stanton’s impressive progress has earned it APA’s 2014
Golden Psi Award, a $1,000 prize that recognizes schools that
do an exceptional job of using psychological science to help
students grow and learn. Among the many ways the school
stands out is with mental health screening and its emphasis on
improving students’ social competence and behavior.
“The thing that they do very well, which is often missing
from social-emotional support in schools, is they practice
accepted behaviors,” such as impulse control and conflict
management, says Tammy Hughes, PhD, chair of APA’s Golden
Stanton teachers, counselors and administrators work as
hard on correcting students’ behavioral mistakes as they do
on correcting math or spelling errors. A conflict between two
students isn’t an automatic trip to the principal’s office, but
rather an opportunity to teach problem solving, Hughes says.
“It’s not about just stopping the fight, but about saying … how
do we come to a compromise, and let’s practice that,” she says.
Stanton’s teachers meet regularly with the school’s student
support team, which includes school psychologist Teri Lawler,
to review students’ academic and behavioral progress and
identify students who might need more mentoring, tutoring
or counseling. Teachers are also regularly trained in classroom
management as well as in the challenges students may face at
home, such as the chronic stress that comes with poverty and a
lack of resources, says Lawler.
“Based on their experiences, many of our kids may be
functioning years below their chronological ages, and so
it’s important that there’s a level of understanding for the
complexity of behavior and behavior change,” Lawler says. “We
work to help teachers and staff understand that as much as we
are teaching academics, we are also teaching behavior.”
The Golden Psi Award, now in its second year, is presented
to a school located in the same region as APA’s Annual
Convention. For more information on the award, go to www.
apa.org/about/awards/bea-golden-psi.aspx. Applications for
the 2015 award are due Nov. 1.
— JAMIE CHAMBERLIN