Jeffco school Board receives update on Social, Emotional, Behavioral Screener

What first year results say about the emotional health of district students

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/5/22

Fall 2021 saw Jeffco Schools take a systemic approach to the implementation of a Social, Emotional, Behavioral (SEB) Screener for the first time.

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Jeffco school Board receives update on Social, Emotional, Behavioral Screener

What first year results say about the emotional health of district students

Posted

Fall 2021 saw Jeffco Schools take a systemic approach to the implementation of a Social, Emotional, Behavioral (SEB) Screener for the first time.

The screener is now administered three times per year, with assessments on observed skills and behavior of students. Those assessments are performed by teachers who’ve been trained by school-based reporters. The reporters were trained by District experts and representatives from Pearson Assessments, the company that created the program.

Erin Sullivan, coordinator of Social Emotional Learning, said during the assessment period, each teacher takes into consideration behavior they’ve seen (from participating students) during the previous four to six weeks. 

She stressed that the assessment is observational — not student performance based, and that all district families were given the choice of opting their student out of the assessments.

Areas of assessment include Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision Making and Motivation to Learn. Students are scored using five performance levels to determine if they are at an At Risk, Emerging or Proficient level. 

What the program indicates

Broken down into individual categories, the district showed strength in the Motivation to Learn and Social Awareness proficiencies, with Self-Management and Relationship Skills described in the report as areas needing more focus and future support.

Beginning of Year (BOY) Fall 2021, scores for elementary students showed 77% scoring at (upper) level 3, 4 or 5 in the Self-Awareness category, with only 3% at level 1. Elementary scores for Self-Management saw 70% of students landing in the 3, 4 and 5 levels, while 6% came in at level 1.

Jeffco’s middle school students had Fall 2021 BOY Social Awareness scores of 85% at levels 3, 4 and 5, with just 3% coming in at level 1.

Full SEB Screener scores can be found at go.boarddocs.com by navigating to the Dec. 15 meeting, clicking on Agenda - 3.03 Fall Screener and downloading the Presentation PDF.

How it works

In explaining some of the nuances of the scoring, Sullivan said the district looks at a Social and Emotional Competence Total using standard scores, so it is comparing students across different levels of proficiencies, to the norm or average. In other words, the scale is derived from summing the standard scores of the Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making competency scales. That score is used as an overall indicator of social–emotional functioning. 

“The assessment is being used across the country and has great analytics,” Sullivan said. “I also think that we started this systemically, in a very different year and are asking all of our staff pre-K through 10th grade to look at our students in this way. And so, I think that’s going to also have a story to tell of the evolution of this data from the beginning of the year, middle of the year and end of year, as we also create comfort around the instrument (assessment) itself.”

Board member Danielle Varda wanted to know how the scores were so high, considering the prevailing opinion of many teachers and parents (including herself) is that students have been struggling during the pandemic.

Terry Walderman, Director, Student Services, replied to Varda’s question by clarifying that the screener is a skills assessment, not a tool for diagnosing mental health. Walderman said the Screener addresses whether students have the skills to be in school.

She said the assessments indicate that a lot of the district’s students do have the necessary skills and that at levels where students are not proficient, the at-risk behaviors that the district is seeing (because of that lack of proficiency) are heightened. Walderman emphasized that the majority of Jeffco’s students are okay, but the ones that are not okay… are really not okay.

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