NYC schools to begin screening students for social-emotional skills next month
Principal Emily Paige wanted to shift the culture of her school.
Her Brooklyn middle school, Urban Assembly Unison, had landed on the state’s list of low-performing schools five years ago and saw several reported incidents of disruptive or violent behavior.
Paige turned to her network of Urban Assembly schools for help, and they suggested her staff use a 10-minute online screener for each child to understand their social-emotional skills. Paige believes it was a first step in improving trust between students and staff and building an entire social-emotional curriculum at Unison.
“It helped the teachers begin to see ways of proactively building in opportunities for students to exercise positive behavioral habits that build up these skill sets,” Paige said.
Starting next month, staff at schools across New York City will begin using this screening tool — known as the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment, or DESSA — to understand students’ social-emotional health after nearly two years of unprecedented disruption.
How it will work: Teachers or other staff members will answer questions in an online screener about students. The questions will focus on a student’s social-emotional skills, such as decision making, self awareness, and personal responsibility. While officials have not pointed to a specific date, a department spokesperson said they’ll begin rolling out the tool to schools next month “so that adults have time to get to know students” before they fill out the screener, though it’s unclear if it will be the same screener Paige used or a shorter version. Officials are hoping staff spend the first few weeks of school “forming relationships” with students, such as through individual check-ins, as suggested in the system’s “Bridge To School” plan.
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