assessing vulnerable youth

How to Assess Vulnerable Students After-School

Youth development programs are often challenged to find an assessment program that’s an effective way to assess vulnerable students. Since their mission is to empower youth to succeed, they find that generic assessments don’t drill deep enough to evaluate the vulnerable/marginalized students they serve.

Merge Education developed SETS software to fill this gap. Assessing students can serve many purposes, and this post details some of 0f SETS’ benefits. Here are just a few:

  1. Assessing students gives you great data, proof of your program’s value that you can present to funders.
  2. Student assessment helps program managers evaluate their mentors (and provide training when necessary).
  3. Assessing students helps mentors see what kind of success they’re having with students.
  4. Student assessment helps mentors better understand how to teach.

That fourth item is SETS’ secret sauce. Although most assessment tools give you a general idea of students’ strengths and weaknesses, SETS asks questions that drill deep. And if you have a mentoring program, that’s what you need.

How Youth Development Programs Use SETS

Youth development programs almost always serve vulnerable children and youth. And if you serve them, you know they need more than a few hours of after-school tutoring … they need a good relationship with someone who cares enough to dig in and get to know them.

Vulnerable Students Need a Targeted Approach

The problem is that teaching marginalized or vulnerable youth after-school can feel a bit amorphous. Even if the mentor has experience with strengths-based teaching, it can feel like unchartered territory. That’s because it is. You may be able to pull out a method book or other stock teaching guide for a well-adjusted student, but that doesn’t work with challenged youth.

Teachers Improve Their Teaching when they Assess Vulnerable Students

As I said, SETS’ secret sauce is in how it helps mentors and teachers improve their ability to teach vulnerable, marginalized students. Basically, it does this by helping the teacher focus her attention on how the student is (or is not) learning. It does this very specifically by focusing her on the skills and abilities we all need in order to learn. Educator and author Bill Rossi refers to these as the Principles of Empowerment:

  1. Ability to concentrate
  2. Level of motivation
  3. Self-confidence to succeed
  4. Frustration tolerance
  5. Consistency of effort
  6. Listens to teacher
  7. Understands directions
  8. Communicates needs
  9. Communicates ideas
  10. Respects equipment and materials
  11. Willing to try new steps
  12. Freedom of expression
  13. Identifies correlations (relationships)
  14. Able to build on prior learning
  15. Incorporates elements of the skill

This scale is just one of three that SETS utilizes (the others track behavior and self-esteem). Since this has an educational focus, it implements anchor points so mentors will understand the scoring variables. This helps create an objective assessment.

When the teacher consistently uses this scale to assess her students, she becomes increasingly focused on where the student is with each of these skills and abilities. This not only gives her a framework within which she can work to improve her students’ skills and abilities, but it also improves her awareness.

Well-Documented Success Impresses Funders

I don’t think many of us choose to work with challenged students for the kudos, but we all need sustainable support to do it, and being able to prove your program’s success is the very best way to get it. We can tell wonderful success stories until we’re blue in the face, but it’s the data that brings home the award. Funders are far more likely to write a significant check if a program’s value and integrity are clearly documented by detailed reports.

Are You Serious About Empowering Youth After-School?

SETS was developed for small and growing youth development programs that are serious about empowering their youth. Try SETS, and you’ll get it. SETS makes sense, and it will help you get sustainable funding. It has a 30-day guarantee so it’s risk-free.

Would you like a tour? We’re at your service. Or just get started with SETS today!

Merge Education

Mary Helen Rossi is Co-Director of Merge Education, which grew out of a nonprofit that provided after-school fine arts mentoring to over 2,500 vulnerable young people. Merge’s SETS software reflects this experience: as one client said, “It’s clear that a lot of thought and love went into SETS!”

Mary Helen Rossi
Mary Helen Rossi
A creative writer, Mary Helen is passionate about empowering marginalized youth, believing that everyone deserves a solid chance in life.

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