Insights from the new Wallace publication: “Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside and Across 25 Leading SEL Programs.”

By Katie Brohawn, Senior Director of Research, ExpandED Schools

Educators (both formal and informal) have long touted the importance of fostering social and emotional competencies of the youth they serve for their long-term success. A large body of research supports the notion that programs that promote the development of SEL skills impact not only students’ behavior and attitudes but academic performance as well. However, only recently have SEL skills joined the ranks of skills to be measured for the purposes of education accountability (via the Every Student Succeeds Act), garnering these skills the true attention they deserve.

To date, the bulk of research in the SEL space (and thus subsequent tools for practitioners) has focused on in-school settings. However, over the past decade, the expanded learning field has received more prominent recognition for its role in partnering with schools to support the social, emotional, and academic achievement of youth. With the addition of SEL metrics to education accountability systems, the need for evidence-based programs to support these skills across both formal and informal education settings is becoming ever more apparent.

This past March, the Wallace Foundation released a resource guide, Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside and Across 25 Leading SEL Programs: A Practical Resource for Schools and OST Providers, that can be used by both schools and OST providers alike. The guide is unique in that it pays special attention to the intricacies the OST space provides, both in facilitating and hindering implementation of SEL-focused programming. Further, the evidence base from more traditional school day programs is also highlighted, acknowledging that expanded learning time programs vary greatly in the degree to which the OST space is aligned with and connected to the school today.

As is the case with previous tools in the field (i.e. the CASEL Guide), Navigating SEL from the Inside Out, sets forth a Framework to narrow down content, dividing SEL skills into three core domains that research has found related to positive short- and long-term outcomes for youth: cognitive regulation, emotional processed and social/interpersonal skills.

Across these three domains are 12 SEL skills with a strong evidence base linking them to youth outcomes. Further, the resource provides insights for practitioners as to 17 evidence-based practices for developing these skills, from more traditionally academic in focus (i.e. discussion, stories, vocabulary) to more dynamic/interactive (i.e. videos, songs, role-playing and games) that OST providers may prefer.

For the list-lover in all of us, the guide succinctly breaks down six features common to evidence-based effective SEL programming, followed by seven commonly faced implementation challenges such that programs realize they aren’t alone in their struggles and, subsequently, ten program components that address these key features and common challenges. However, most relevant to our readers is the distinct call-out of four common principles specific to providing quality SEL programming in the OST space. Notably that programs:

  1. provide a safe and positive environment for children and adults;
  2. support the development of high quality relationships between children and adults;
  3. are developmentally appropriate, relevant and engaging for children; and
  4. provide opportunities for direct skill building.

These principles are followed by five areas OST providers should consider specific to the OST space before embarking on the decision to be intentional in their SEL focus.

  1. Expansion is difficult when forcing standardization
  2. The benefits of consistency must be balanced with the need for programming to be additive.
  3. SEL programs must authentically support the mission of the OST organization.
  4. In addition to mission, the pedagogical approach of SEL and OST programs should be both aligned and additive.
  5. Organizations must consider the specific SEL needs and learning styles of their students.

Every Hour Counts has long recognized the value of incorporating SEL in both practice and measurement in expanded-learning systems, illustrated by the development of our Measurement Framework. The Measurement Framework provides a blueprint for communities to better understand the impact of programs, with a focus on youth outcomes and a defined set of social and emotional skills. We realize this is an ever-evolving field and appreciate the efforts of The Wallace Foundation to commission this type of research that drives the field forward.

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Another Life Lost, Another Shattering Verdict

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by Wokie Weah, President of Youthprise
This post originally appeared on youthprise.org

Another not-guilty verdict

The air in Minnesota is as heavy as my heart. As we say in Liberia “my heart is not satisfied”. My heart definitely is not satisfied with the verdict in the Philando Castile case. As a Minnesotan, a mother, a grandmother and the president of a youth-centered organization, I am grieving with communities across Minnesota.

This is no accident

My thoughts go out to the family of Philando Castile, and the families of every person who experiences violence at the hands of our justice system. I was in my hotel room in Little Rock Arkansas where I was taking my 18-year-old daughter to enroll in a summer college program. Frankly I was stunned when I heard not guilty on all counts. Then I remembered the system had worked as it was intentionally designed to work. This is no accident. The tragedy of what happened is a problem created by a fundamentally flawed justice system that views people of color as threats that are worthy of the harshest forms of government force and punishment. I have written about my own fears as the mother of an African American son before. Minnesota’s future prosperity is tied to the success of young people of color and they are losing faith in our institutions and systems.

Data

2014 data from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety regarding statewide racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system indicate that youth of color continue to make up a disproportionate number of youth involved in the justice system compared to white youth.  In fact, youth of color are arrested at nearly three times the rate of white youth and alarmingly African American youth are arrested at five and half times the rate of white youth.  These disparities occur at nearly every stage of the juvenile justice system and impact all minority racial groups.  The system as it currently operates provides easy on ramps for youth of color to enter while making an exit difficult and less speedy than for white youth.  Probation data illustrates the difficulties youth of color experience exiting the system as it indicates that African American youth are offered probation at half the rate of white youth and Native American youth are offered probation at three quarters of the rate of white youth.  The data from Ramsey County where Philando Castile was stopped by the St. Anthony Police Department is even more stark.  Youth of color are arrested at nearly four times the rate of white youth which is primarily driven by the fact that African American youth are arrested at nine times the rate of white youth.  Both the current juvenile and adult justice systems operate in ways that make it easy for people of color to enter, treats them harsher than their white neighbors once in, makes it difficult for them to exit, and leaves them with an array of collateral consequences that impact them long after their involvement with the system ends.  We need to ask ourselves is this what justice should look like in Minnesota?  If you don’t believe that this is justice, the next question to ask is what can I or my organization or my community do to change the current system?

Time to follow young people’s lead

At Youthprise, we believe that young people who are the most impacted by the issues are the ones who hold the most impactful solutions. When I heard the heartbreaking verdict announced last Friday, it was young people who came to my mind. I thought of the young people who actively engage in systems to disrupt and change them, the young people who fight for their communities and whose ingenuity uplifts all of Minnesota. I thought of the young people who take their voices to the streets and march against injustice with signs in their hands and hope in their hearts. It is time to follow young people’s leads.

Action

As a hero of mine, Nelson Mandela, once said, “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” Now is not the time to rest. Now is the time for action. In this spirit, here are five calls to action for all of stakeholders. Please join Youthprise in taking action.

To the philanthropic community:

The true role of philanthropy is to take calculated risks in support of the community vision. Invest. Now is the time to be bold and to invest in communities that are already doing the work to dismantle systems of oppression. In light of the recent events, Youthprise isinvesting $10,000 in the Philando Castile Scholarship Fund and $15,000 to an organization involved in the critical work of dismantling racism and disrupting systems.Join us in supporting the scholarship fund and supporting a non-profit involved in dismantling racism.

To communities involved in challenging systems:

We hear you, we see you, and we’ve got your back. The role of community is to challenge the status quo and support the next generation in bringing about much needed change. Thank you for showing up again and again. Continue to hold your elected officials’ feet to the fire. Urge your friends and family to show up and vote, not just in Presidential elections. Insist that schools and the educational system include their histories and perspectives. We all must take action.

To elected officials:

The role of elected officials is to represent the communities you serve. Be more courageous in implementing a racial equity agenda. Listen to the needs of your diverse constituents. You are working for the young people of Minnesota. Invest in them. Listen to them. Minnesota is losing ground as a state in terms of investments in our young people. Now more than ever we have to support the next generation of Minnesotans.

To the media:

One of the fundamental responsibilities of the media is to ensure the general welfare of the public through timely and accurate information. Do not produce superficial reporting that reproduces stereotypes; instead publish positive stories that reflect Minnesota’s diverse communities. In the past we relied on the media to keep us informed. Social media has changed all of that. Young people and community members use social media to tell stories that reflect their experiences. There is power in digital storytelling that shifts the narrative. This fall, we will be building the capacity of young people to use digital media at our annual summit hosted in partnership with Intermedia Arts and GLITCH.

To young people:

The role of young people is to step into leadership roles that disrupt existing systems. You have the power to change systems. You are already leading the charge to dismantle systems of oppression and you are already taking leadership in your communities. Continue to acquire the tools and the skillsets to work within systems that impact your lives. Unless young people engage in the systems that impact their lives, those systems will not work for young people.

To everyone:

Invest in young people and begin by investing in the Philando Castile Scholarship Fund. This fund is about honoring Philando’s legacy by supporting our state’s commitment to educating youth and giving them the tools to thrive in this world. You can read about the first scholarship recipient here. Youthprise will continue to prioritize young people. Preparing youth to lead in philanthropy, research and policy is key to real systems change.

Our work doesn’t stop at the end of a march, we will continue to call for justice and dismantle systems of oppression as long as they exist. As local artist and organizer Ricardo Levins Morales often quotes Aboriginal rights activists in Queensland, Australia:

“If you have come to help me you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

The Power of Digital Storytelling

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Shanell McCoy training Youthprise staff on the importance of social media as a storytelling tool

by Shanell McCoy, Youthprise Youth Fellow, Communications Coordinator

Storytelling can be defined in many different ways. For some, storytelling evokes childhood memories, sitting in circles as teachers read fairy tales and stories starring talking animals. For others, storytelling is simply the retelling of events through word of mouth. At Youthprise, we see storytelling as a powerful tool that can uplift the voices of the communities we serve.

In our view, storytelling isn’t just an action. Whether through word of mouth, written text, or presented on a digital platform, storytelling is a significant part of building a healthy community. Why? Because it holds the power to inform and educate others using stories that come from outside of each of our particular individual perspectives. At Youthprise, we therefore see creating socially healthy online environments for our communities as a core responsibility of our organization. And we’re proud to say that our youth staff owns this responsibility by leading our digital storytelling efforts.

Using a youth-adult, partnership model, youth on staff act  as content curators, brand managers, and communication coordinators—all while building their to tell stories.

Take Nancy Musinguzi, a recently hired youth artist. As part of her work, she wrote the story of our Community Ambassadors Initiative that operates in partnership with the city of St. Paul. Musinguzi interviewed and photographed the participants of the program including Police Chief, Thomas Smith and the young people involved. Youth fellow and Brand Manager, Adeeb Missaghi worked with  Musinguzi to design an interactive digital publication. This collaboration between youth and adults resulted in a unique storytelling opportunity unlike any other at Youthprise. And it evolved the way we communicate about our work to include the many perspectives of the communities we serve.

Ensuring young people have the opportunity to tell stories on their own terms, and following their own vision, also builds on five social-emotional learning behaviors like self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, self-management, and responsible decision-making. Youth are able to develop their unique voice, interact with different communities, both online and in person, work toward social media goals (like audience engagement, brand marketing, etc.), and make responsible decisions about the content they create and post.

All of this contributes to a socially healthy online environment—one that’s not only inclusive, but also authentic and engaging.

When youth-serving organizations and intermediaries in the out-of-school-time field engage young people using digital storytelling platforms, they’re not only giving those young people the opportunity to build their capacity as writers, they’re also pushing their own organization to be more reflective of the communities they serve. At Youthprise, we know that youth engagement isn’t a product, but a process. While messy at times, the process of engaging youth always yields results that can impact our field and our work in profound ways.

To further the impact of storytelling, Youthprise will be hosting our 2017 annual Summit in partnership with Intermedia Arts and GLITCH, a non-profit that works to educate, inspire, and equip emerging makers with the tools for success in the digital game and simulation fields. The goal of the Summit is to build the capacity of youth and youth-serving organizations in Minnesota to think differently about technology as a creative tool for advocacy, education, and collaboration. During the Summit, we’ll educate participants on the importance of digital storytelling through interactive activities, and address ways to incorporate young people in the process.

When we empower young people to control the narratives they’re most impacted by, we get authentic perspectives on our work. When we give youth the space and resources to use their voices to address issues and topics that matter most to them, we shift their role from story subjects to story authors. This process builds trust between the organization and the community,  and contributes to a socially healthy environment that invites youth to share stories and build their capacity as storytellers.

In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.”

 

 

 

 

New Skills Framework Unveiled for All Boston Educators at the ACT Skills Summit

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by Aja Watkins
This post originally appeared on bostonbeyond.org

Hundreds of educators, policymakers, advocates, and funders gathered at Boston University on Monday, June 5 around Boston After School & Beyond’s new Achieve, Connect, Thrive (ACT) Skills framework. The ACT Skills Summit was an exciting day full of engaging activities, including hearing from education leaders, researchers, and program practitioners concerning best practices for cultivating the ACT Skills.

The newly unveiled ACT Skills Framework consists of nine skills, three in each of the Achieve, Connect, and Thrive categories.

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Attendees to the Summit first heard about the importance of these skills in relation to college, career, and life success from local education leaders.

“What we need – across settings – is a skills agenda” -Rahn Dorsey, the City of Boston’s Chief of Education

“We’re in a critical time to close the achievement gap and improve the self sufficiency of individuals” -Hardin Coleman, Dean of the Boston University School of Education

“We’ve found a very strong mismatch between what we need in a community and the jobs that we’re able to fill.” -Kelli Wells, Executive Director of Education and Skills at the GE Foundation

“We all need a common understanding of how we define college and career readiness. The ACT Framework does a good job defining these skills.” -Dr. Tommy Chang, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools

“It is key to give young people opportunities in a complex environment, and provide them with real world experience.” -Wanda McClain, Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

“You are doing the work that we need as a city, a Commonwealth, and a nation” -Senator Chang-Díaz, Chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Education

The group also heard from Dr. Gil Noam, Founder and Director of the PEAR Institute at Harvard Medical School, about the research base for the ACT skills. “Let’s make these skills live, let’s not just talk about them. Let youth see that adults have ups and downs and they can persevere,” Dr. Noam said. “If we pursue the goal of the engaged learner we have a chance to make the future into the golden age of education.”

Attendees then transitioned into a series of workshops delivered by program staff. Over the coming weeks, Boston After School & Beyond will be releasing a series of blog posts detailing the contents of each of these sessions:

Achieve Workshops: HMS MEDScience: Think Like a Scientist!

Phillips Brooks House Association: Training for Critical Thinking – Aligning Staff Development with Creative Curricula

Sociedad Latina: Teaching Achieve Skills through Design Thinking

The PEAR Institute: Metacognition Activities for Afterschool and Summer Programs

Connect Workshops:Scholar Athletes: ACT Skills Mapping for Program Development

Courageous Sailing: Connecting to Succeed

The PEAR Institute: Using Art and Literature to Build Empathy

Thrive Workshops:Berklee City Music: Understanding the Social-Emotional Needs of Youth

Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center: Being Your Best Self – Supporting Student Success

St. Stephen’s Youth Programs: Striving to Thrive – Feeling Safe, Feeling Big, Feeling Connected

The PEAR Institute: Neuroplasticity, the Brain, and Student Self-Concept and Growth

The materials from each of these workshops can be found here. An academic paper about the development of the ACT Skills Framework is forthcoming.

Congress: Reject Trump Administration’s FY ’18 Education Budget

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Image: Students at Highbridge Green School in the Bronx, part of the ExpandED Schools network, participate in an expanded learning program operated by WHEDco., a community partner

The people who put together the president’s budget know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. —William A. Galston, who helped start AmeriCorps
as the policy advisor to President Clinton

President Trump submitted his FY ’18 budget to Congress, proposing massive funding cuts that included the elimination of 22 programs within the Department of Education. Once again, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program is among those targeted for elimination along with several other programs that provide critical support to after-school programs and personnel. These cuts would be absolutely devastating to students and families throughout the country who rely on 21st CCLC for high-quality before- and after-school programs and other community supports.

Every Hour Counts urges Congress to reject the President’s FY ’18 budget proposal and support critical investments in our kids and families.

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts the Department of Education’s budget by $9.2 billion or 13 percent, claiming that many of the eliminated programs, including 21st CCLC, lack evidence of impact or duplicate of other federal programs such as Title I. At the same time, the budget also cuts Title I by $578 million to support a $1 billion school choice program which would strip the highest-need schools of valuable resources and make it harder for the students furthest behind to get the critical support they need. Additionally, the budget eliminates the AmeriCorps Program and the Title II, Part-A programs which help place volunteers in after-school programs throughout the country and provide professional development for in- and after-school personnel.

Unfortunately, this budget simply asks high-need schools to do more with less, an unacceptable trade-off that will hurt the neediest students.

Every Hour Counts rejects these claims and these cuts.

The 21st CCLC program is the only federal funding stream exclusively dedicated to supporting high-quality and evidence-based after-school programming for 1.6 million children and families in high-need communities across the country. These programs are supported by 20 years of evidence and have shown a positive impact on social and emotional skills, student achievement, school attendance and graduation rates of participating students.

After-school and summer learning programs made possible by 21st CCLC funding provide kids with so much more than a safe place to go while their parents are at work.

These programs expose students to new learning and enrichment opportunities and provide the academic and social support kids need to thrive in school and in life.

Senate Afterschool Caucus

Hill Briefing Panel, from left to right: Jackie Green, Cache Primary Principal, Cache Public Schools, Oklahoma; Jenny Wright Collins, M.Ed., Executive Director, University YMCA/Beacons Network, Minnesota; Stoney E. Hays, Chief Executive Officer, Boys & Girls Club of the Ozarks, Missouri; Sean Prospect, Executive Director, After-School All-Stars South Florida; Ashley, student with After-School All-Stars, Jennifer Peck, President and CEO, Partnership for Children and Youth.

In fact, providers from across the country travelled to Capitol Hill in April for a briefing organized by the Senate Afterschool Caucus, Afterschool Alliance, Every Hour Counts, and other national organizations to share the positive impact that 21st CCLC has had on their lives and communities. We heard from Stoney Hays, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of the Ozarks, Missouri, who  spoke not just from the heart about how the Boys and Girls Club changed his life by helping him graduate from high school and go on to be the first in his family to graduate from college, but also about how their impact is widespread. Members who participate in the Boys and Girls Club of the Ozarks have a 94% graduation rate. And for every $1 the Boys and Girls Club receives from 21 CCLC, the Club leverages $9 in local resources.

Ashley, a high school student who grew up in the After-School All Stars program in Orlando, brought the room to a resounding standing ovation when she spoke of how the program impacted her life:

They fed me every day during a time that I wasn’t sure there would be food at home. I now get to mentor students that are going through the same things that I went through as a kid. I want to thank Ms. Amy and all the other Ms. Amy’s of after-school programs throughout the country.

I’m just a regular American kid, a kid that easily could have been lost in the shuffle. These programs helped me find my purpose. I’m the proof that these programs work, I’m the proof that they matter and I’m the proof we need them now more than ever.

President Trump’s FY 2018 budget claims to reflect a new vision for education, and yet the cuts show a conspicuous blind spot for the critical role that after-school and expanded learning programs play when it comes to improving educational outcomes for communities everywhere.

Congress is about to begin to craft and deliberate their own funding priorities and proposals.

The time to act and make your voice heard is now!

Call or write to your Senators and Representatives directly to tell them how important expanded learning opportunities are to you and your community and share the impact of the proposed cuts on families, including jobs and opportunities for children, in your community.

Take this opportunity to invite your Senators and Representatives to visit your local after-school programs and share evidence on the positive impact these programs are making in your (and their) community. These visits can bring the local eye view directly to your elected representatives and help them understand just how critical these national programs are to the people that keep them in office.