23 Aug 2019 Promising Practices for Improving Youth Social-Emotional Learning
Student Success Network formed in 2011 when a group of 15 nonprofit leaders in NYC decided it was time to shift their focus beyond traditional academic skills to include social-emotional learning (SEL) skills they knew were critically important for student success. After two years of exploration, influenced by collective impact approaches, these leaders created an SEL measurement tool so they could compare results across all their programs and identify promising practices. Their vision was that all organizations could serve more students more effectively by working together.
Flash forward to today, and SSN is a self-governing community of 65 member organizations collectively closing the opportunity gap for youth. Together, members address challenges related to postsecondary access and persistence, focusing on SEL as a primary lever.
The original measurement tool members created five years ago has evolved over the years based on the needs of the Network and today the Student Success Network Survey explores seven SEL competencies.
What are Promising Practices?
Each year, the Research Alliance for NYC Schools at NYU uses Network SEL Survey data to identify Bright Spot Sites — sites where participants experience greater growth in at least one SEL factor compared to similar young people across the Network. Practitioners at Bright Spot sites then share Promising Practices that they hypothesize improve their participants’ SEL.
Throughout August, SSN staff and youth have been conducting interviews with the 20 Bright Spot Sites with hopes of highlighting Network Members’ expertise. Participants in each interview collaboratively document the Promising Practices to share across the network and they will be published here and on the Resource Library as they are documented.
We are so excited to share the findings with you – stay tuned for themes that emerged across interviews and more Promising Practices as we continue the process!
2019 Promising Practices
Rowe Scholars at Julia Richman Education Complex (JREC)
Candy Halikas, Jessica Harris-Avila, Lorraine Santana, Kenneth Melendez
High School Students, 11-12th graders
YMCA staff at JREC design lesson plans that feature an icebreaker, a smaller-group activity that requires teamwork, and a whole-group discussion. Their discussion questions ask teens to reflect on (1) their own and others’ feelings (2) their assessment of their group’s teamwork– what went well, what didn’t go well (3) the impact of their own actions and what they could do differently, and (4) connecting social-emotional skills to their own lives.
Leaders Club at Coney Island YMCA
Toni Coley, Andre Desir, Justin Martinez
Middle School and High School Students
Staff at the Coney Island Y consistently communicate to teens that “because you come, we have a program. It’s your program.” Staff foster youth-adult partnership in decision-making by (1) including two committed teens in weekly staff planning meetings (2) giving teens input and choice in many aspects of programming from discussion topics to trip plans, (3) checking in with students who don’t return to program to ask what they want to see and (4) balancing incentives with structure and accountability.
360I, Google Tuesdays, Google Thursdays
Belonging and Self-Advocacy
High School Students
Throughout programming, New York on Tech students are given opportunities to see people who look like themselves represented as leaders in the tech industry. Staff build in discussions about representation during activities, personalize activities to student backgrounds, and set norms around engagement with industry professionals. These practices improve belonging and self-advocacy by building caring, open relationships between staff and students.
YMCA Y Scholars at IS 126Q
LaChanda Williams, Julia Defeo
Belonging, Interpersonal Skills
Middle School Students
YMCA staff at IS 126Q facilitate “Teen Talk” sessions– structured group discussions that teach communication and coping skills, while fostering connections and trust between counselors and youth and among students. Counselors facilitate single-gender groups of students discussing topics relevant to middle schoolers like bullying, self-love, and self-expression. Participants at IS 126Q experienced greater growth in Belonging, Interpersonal Skills, and Self-Regulation compared to middle schoolers with similar starting SEL scores across the Network.
YMCA Rowe Scholars at Bronx Explorations Academy (BEA)
Amanda Pagan, Bianca Sugrimsingh, Cody Velez
High School Students
Y staff prepare students and families for the college application process, communicate deadlines, track individual student progress, and provide emotional reassurance along with technical support. Staff hold students accountable for completing college application and enrollment themselves: They set a strict expectation that students and not advisors complete the steps. Staff enforce this boundary in order to prepare young people for success in college, where they will be expected to complete tasks independently. Participants in YMCA Rowe Scholars at BEA experienced greater growth in Self-Advocacy compared to youth with similar starting SEL scores at the same school level across the Network and 100% of graduating participants applied to and were accepted into college.