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Aperture Partner Case Study: SEL in Alternative Settings: Teachers and Students Share About Their Urban Assembly Advisory SEL Program, Brooklyn, NY

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is making a meaningful impact for students at two alternative charter schools in Brooklyn, New York.

The New Visions for Public Education AIM I and AIM II Charter High Schools have partnered with The Urban Assembly and Aperture Education to integrate SEL within their advisory class to support students’ resilience and strengths.

The Urban Assembly is a non-profit organization that serves 23 New York City public secondary schools, working to improve the social-economic mobility of students by improving public education. The Urban Assembly partners with Aperture Education to support SEL and develop an SEL framework called the “Resilient Scholars Program,” which is built upon four tenets:

1. Direct instruction

2. Integration

3. Assessment

4. Supports for implementation and sustainability

The New Visions for Public Education AIM I and AIM II Charter High Schools serve 15-21-year-old students who have transferred from other schools. Students have many different needs and concerns, and they tend to have had life situations that may have caused significant disruptions to their academic experiences. “Despite the barriers, these students show great grit, perseverance, and determination because they continue to show up every day,” explains Kristen Greer, Principal, AIM I.

3 Areas SEL Has Transformed Instruction

Teachers and students from the two schools share about their SEL program and how it’s helped them in three particular areas: academics, relationships, and college and career readiness.

Academics

The schools have used the program for two years, and this year they are focusing on social awareness and responsible decision-making. In addition to teaching SEL in advisory, the teachers incorporate SEL into their lessons, even during virtual learning. They use Aperture’s SEL data and look at the SEL trend report to guide instructional decisions in the classroom and advisory. “Partnering with the Urban Assembly was literally a perfect fit,” Principal Greer explains. “We realized that we have to learn about SEL ourselves, we have to model SEL, and we then have to hold students accountable.”

A foundational component of the schools’ program is that SEL and academic instruction work together as one cohesive entity. The school makes sure that SEL is not being taught separately from academics, but rather, that the two build upon each other.

According to Principal Greer, “One of the things we are thrilled about is our work with our teachers and how they have begun to incorporate the social-emotional work into their lessons, even during virtual learning this year. SEL is connected with what we’re mastering in school, so if you’re mastering SEL competencies, you should be mastering your classes and your academic outcomes.”

Teacher Ashley Juvonen agrees, “SEL sort of sets the tone and helps build those relationships students need to do well academically.”

A student shares about the tie between SEL and academics: “SEL has helped me know what I need to work on, like recognize what I need to do to get my schoolwork done. I still struggle sometimes, but it teaches you how to manage your time and stuff while you’re at home during the pandemic.

Another student explains, “I have learned that no matter what the work is, it’s still going to be there, and it’s better for you to put yourself in a positive mindset and a good mood. SEL helped me a lot in school because now I do my work with no problem and I submit it that same day.”

I have learned that no matter what the work is, it’s still going to be there, and it’s better for you to put yourself in a positive mindset and a good mood. SEL helped me a lot in school because now I do my work with no problem and I submit it that same day.

New Visions High School Student

Relationship-Building

Students participate in a few different classes that focus on building relationships. A “Healthy Relationships Group” meets twice a month, and once a week students meet in the groups, “Girl Talk,” “Barbershop Talk,” and “LGBTQ and Allies Group.” These classes focus on areas of interest for each group and help students build strong relationship skills.

“Building relationships is key for working with alternative youth,” Principal Greer stresses. Teacher Marina Badillo-Diaz explains, “A great way we incorporate SEL skills in a very relevant way for our students, who are ages 15 to 21, is by talking about relationships. It’s not just about romantic relationships, but also friendships and relationships with teachers and family. Our groups are a great way to get students to bond with one another and their teachers.”

Juvonen agrees, “The ways that I was able to connect with students through some of the SEL prompts and conversations was much different and really helped me build those relationships. Students were able to see me in a different layer — as a human being, not just as a teacher.”

A student shares, “I appreciate my teachers talking with me about how I’m feeling and how I’m doing and giving me pointers. You know, they’ve experienced school and they’ve experienced life, so I appreciate their help.”

Another student shares, “This has helped me start communicating effectively and efficiently with my school teachers and regular people within the community.”

The ways that I was able to connect with students through some of the SEL prompts and conversations was much different and really helped me build those relationships. Students were able to see me in a different layer — as a human being, not just as a teacher.

Ashley Juvonen, New Visions Teacher

College and Career Readiness

Once a week in advisory, all students focus on the SEL skills needed for college and career readiness. “This work we are doing is necessary to their development and toward students’ postsecondary future and to graduation,” Principal Greer stresses.

Another teacher explains, “A lot of students are not crazy about college or are even thinking about the future. We can help them start thinking about their interests by meeting with them where they are now and having conversations and check-ins.”

A student shares, “I kind of lost motivation with all the schoolwork I have to do and then research for college. It was overwhelming. So I would say self-awareness was very important for me to understand myself and my interests.”

The New Visions for Public Education AIM I and AIM II Charter High Schools are integrating SEL with academic instruction to improve outcomes for students in alternative settings.

Aperture Education can support your SEL program, whether it’s in an alternative or traditional school setting. Contact us through the form below to get started.

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