How We Use SEL Screeners to Uplift Student Voices


At Green Dot Public Schools California, our schools are responsible for not only the academic success of our students but for their greater well-being to prepare all students for success in college, leadership, and life. How do we create a space where students can succeed? Through social-emotional learning screenings, we improve our schools through the voices of our most significant stakeholders—our students. 

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is essential to a student's academic growth, as SEL can determine whether educational goals are impeded or facilitated. Social-emotional learning is defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as the process in which people learn skills to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, show empathy, achieve personal growth, maintain healthy relationships, and make responsible decisions. 

Benefits of SEL

Based on a meta-analysis across 213 studies, students participating in SEL programs improved their classroom behavior, stress, and depression management abilities. Students enhanced their view of themselves, others, and school. This same analysis found that students participating in SEL intervention had an increase of 11 percent in academic performance compared to students that did not participate. 

In response, Green Dot CA has established its own set of social-emotional learning screeners, tools used to learn more about our students' needs to serve them better. These surveys are self-reported questionnaires, where students respond with their level of agreement to statements on school-family-community relationships.

"The questions in the survey are specific and aligned to our organizational goals around student success and wellness," Chiara Colicino, Advisory and Culture Specialist said. Green Dot CA's goals to impact academic performance, mental wellness, healthy relationships, and more are at the forefront of what we try to cultivate through student feedback.

SEL Screening at Green Dot Schools

Green Dot CA's SEL screeners are conducted three times per year during class. Within each survey window, all teachers select one class period to survey students for feedback.  The universal SEL screener asks questions aligned with elements of the Developmental Relationships Framework: expand possibilities, share power, express care, provide support, and challenge growth. Krisy Terry, the Senior Director of African American Achievement & Equity oversees the SEL screeners under the school culture team as well as restorative practices, and expanded learning. 

Before the SEL Screener, Green Dot CA facilitated the California Healthy Kid Survey to gauge students' social and emotional well-being. The organization adopted the SEL screener in 2021 when it partnered with PERT's Elevate, a professional learning program. "We wanted a direct lens on [students'] daily interactions and engagement in the classroom," Terry said, "keeping in mind equity and inclusion– conditions for learning where students can be successful." 

In this 10-minute survey, students answer questions about their experience in the classroom and school that fall within categories: meaningful work, student's voice, affirming identity, classroom community, teacher caring, and feedback for growth.

Once surveys are complete, teachers can use the data to reflect on and analyze. If 80 percent of students agree/strongly agree with the survey's statements, universal instructional support is working– yet additional support is available. However, positive responses under 80 percent undergo additional universal instructional support. Teachers consult resources and practice guides and decide what new practices to test. Resources include strategies, examples, and planning time.

Growing Together

Through the SEL screener, Green Dot CA hopes to reflect on the needs of students and support them so they can feel connected, respected, and supported.  

The SEL screener is more than a survey; our teacher practices its findings in our classrooms. Teachers use the tools learned from resources, and the SEL screener, like a warm welcome. Warm welcomes are a strategy staff uses to welcome each student daily. They are essential to facilitate recovery, especially after a universally traumatizing experience. We gauge how students connect the daily greeting with the relationships developmental framework and the impact on students by building community, fostering relationships, and assessing students' social and emotional states. 

At Green Dot Public Schools California, there is an unwavering belief in a student's potential. We recognize that classroom experiences or external circumstances can sometimes hinder this potential. However, we are committed to eliminating barriers for all students.