By Sam Piha
Pomona Unified School District (PUSD) announced that they are expanding their partnership with WINGS for Kids in order to promote SEL related skills among their youth.
Richard Martinez, superintendent of PUSD, stated, “By continuing our collaboration, we are able to utilize WINGS’ expertise and build upon the strengths of our staff and our high-quality afterschool programming to help our students develop critical skills they need to succeed in school and in life.”
In addition to its partnership with PUSD, WINGS serves more than 1,100 students from vulnerable communities in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina through a direct-service afterschool program model of their research-based curriculum led by college students, known as WINGS Leaders.
To learn more about the WINGS approach, we invited Julia Rugg, WINGS’ Chief Strategy Officer, to serve as a guest blogger. Below, we offer part one of her two-part post.
WINGS Works! How Our Afterschool SEL Model Leads to Success
By Julia Rugg
Report after report tells us that too many kids in low-resource neighborhoods fare worse in overall education and life outcomes than their peers in higher-resourced areas. And while we know that social-emotional skills help narrow this tragic gap, we also know that classroom teachers often do not have the time, resources, or training to focus directly on helping students develop social-emotional skills during the regular school day.
WINGS for Kids believes that afterschool programs are well-positioned to address this educational gap by directly teaching social-emotional skills like self-awareness and responsible decision-making. We see both value and opportunity in using the hours after school to help teach these critical skills to our most vulnerable kids—the students who need them most.
The forthcoming results of our own randomized control trial, or RCT—the first such in-depth study on SEL in the afterschool space—corroborate what other research has shown: quality afterschool programs that focus on social and emotional learning have a significant positive impact on students in and out of the classroom. This is especially true for children living in low-resource neighborhoods, who typically are academically behind their peers, and for whom the bulk of the school day is spent working hard to close that achievement gap, with little time in the day to teach and practice skills beyond math, reading, and writing.
In WINGS schools, we take advantage of the flexibility that afterschool offers to not only teach social-emotional skills, but use the additional time it affords for kids to practice them and apply them in social and academic settings.
Our program model is influenced by research from Joseph A. Durlak and Roger P. Weissberg that tells us afterschool programs aligned with four evidence-based best practices—sequenced, active, focused, and explicit, or SAFE—have greater effects on student outcomes. To that end, we’ve aligned WINGS to the SAFE framework to ensure we are infusing intentionality throughout our activities and our curriculum.
We leverage the power of relationships in the afterschool space to help kids learn, practice, and internalize social-emotional skills. WINGS Leaders—college-aged mentors—work with small groups, called nests, of 10-12 kids. This personalized instruction, led by young people with backgrounds similar to those of our kids, have a relevance and impact that teacher-led activities sometimes don’t.
Our Evidence and Growth
Our data supports what we see each day: what kids learn in the hours after school influences their actions and behavior inside the classroom. Our aforementioned RCT study shows that WINGS reduces kids’ negative classroom behaviors and increases their positive classroom behaviors. Our programming also helps kids name positive behaviors, develop the vocabulary to talk about their emotions, and better regulate their behavior, both inside and outside the classroom.
Internal data from our programs in Charleston, S.C., also shows that WINGS kids are less likely to be chronically absent from school and less likely to receive a disciplinary referral compared to their peers—key predictors of academic success and graduating from high school.
With this research in hand, we know that WINGS works—and we want to bring SEL to more of the kids who need it most. Through our direct-service programs in Charleston, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta, Ga., WINGS gives more than 1,000 students in grades K-5 the life lessons they need to succeed and be happy, and help them thrive despite the challenges they face every day.
This year, we’re also expanding our partnership model to all schools in Pomona (Calif.) Unified School District by training and coaching providers and staff to integrate SEL into the district’s long-standing and award-winning afterschool program, The Learning Connection. As a result, more than 1,700 kids in Pomona will be able to develop social-emotional skills to prepare them for success in school and in life.
At WINGS, we envision a world where there is equity in academics, opportunity, and emotional well-being for all children regardless of socioeconomic status. That’s why we work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to access high-quality afterschool programming, caring adults and mentors, and social and emotional learning. By bringing these pieces together, along with research and through an evidence-based model, a program like WINGS has the power and potential to close the gaps that can prevent America’s most vulnerable kids from soaring to success.
Julia Rugg is the Chief Strategy Officer at WINGS for Kids. Since July 2011 she has launched WINGS’ expansion efforts across the southeast with the CEO, and worked alongside the senior team to ensure the WINGS model has been replicated with fidelity and quality. She evaluates current and future growth opportunities for WINGS, develops partner relationships, and builds the necessary internal infrastructure and resources necessary to support growth.
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.