Transforming Education (TransformEd) and NewSchools Venture Fund (NewSchools) have embarked on a multi-year partnership to support schools in expanding their definition of student success to include academics, social-emotional competencies, and the positive learning environments that support students’ development in both of these domains. Through this partnership, we are tackling a number of research and learning questions, all of which focus on understanding which factors influence students’ social-emotional development and how best to use social-emotional and school climate data to inform the work of educators.
In our first research study, we explored, in partnership with EdAnalytics and NewSchools Venture Fund, the measurement properties of a set of curated scales measuring students’ perceptions of their social-emotional competencies (SEC) and of their school’s culture and climate (CC). The surveys were administered to students in grades 4-12 in a unique and diverse sample of schools nationwide that are part of the NewSchools Invent portfolio. The purpose of the surveys is to collect student voice data to inform school leader decision-making and ultimately school practice.
In this study, we examined the extent to which the items from each survey provide consistent and new information about the underlying constructs being assessed, the extent to which the items are interpreted comparably across student subgroups, and the extent to which the scales measure unique underlying constructs. Our preliminary results suggest that the SEC and CC surveys are suitable for practitioners to use to inform classroom strategies or instructional practices. We recognize, however, that validation is an ongoing process in which multiple sources of evidence should be brought to bear. We therefore recommend further inquiry into whether particular items are truly interpreted differentially across subgroups (and if so, why), and the extent to which select SEC scales are measuring overlapping constructs.
We are continuing to explore these questions, along with others that are part of our research and learning agenda, using multiple years of data from the NewSchools Invent portfolio. For example, we have looked at the relationship between student and teacher reports of social-emotional competencies, and we have explored the various factors that influence students’ perceptions of the school climate/culture. We have also identified a number of schools in which students consistently report strong social-emotional competencies and positive school culture and climate, in order to learn more about the practices, supports, and strategies being enacted in these exemplar schools. These studies will be released in the coming months, making this post the first in a series about this partnership and its resultant studies.
Ultimately, we believe that focusing on an expanded definition of student success can empower young people to chart their own course and catalyze more equitable outcomes for the next generation. In order to realize this vision, we must continuously draw from the latest research on psychology, neuroscience, and related fields and make those findings actionable for educators. At the same time, we must identify the bright spots that already exist within our nation’s schools and seek to understand what they can teach us about how to support all students – particularly those from marginalized groups – in reaching their full potential. If we do both of these things well, then our work has the power to transform education for our nation’s young people so that all students can thrive.
For further information on the NewSchools-TransformEd partnership, including how we selected the components of this expanded definition of student success, see Embracing and Measuring an Expanded Definition of Student Success.