Youth Development Software FAQ


Laura Corbett

Intern/ Consultant, Philadelphia

SETS is a comprehensive and unique assessment software to assist organizations in tracking both qualitative and quantitative data, and that was exactly what we needed!

It only takes a few hours after using the tool to understand how it works and how to use it most effectively.

SETS is an easy, accurate, and effective way to measure progress.

SETS as a Program Management Tool

Does SETS Have a Contact Database?

Yes. SETS maintains all contact information about students, staff, and significant others, and you can compile and share reports on these contacts.

How Does SETS Improve Director Program Oversight and Management?

SETS provides program oversight of afterschool programs by reporting on:

  • all necessary personal record keeping information
  • student demographics
  • teacher progress notes and qualitative reports
  • student interests served
  • which classes and sections are currently offered
  • which classes are open for additional enrollment
  • which teachers and students are in each class
  • staff and student attendance
  • teacher evaluation and goal-oriented support.

By utilizing this basic data with the student evaluations, directors keep operations flowing smoothly, plus see which teachers / mentors are the most effective and who might need additional support.

How does SETS Help Administrators and Generate More Funding?

SETS’ management reports help administrators ensure program fidelity to standards while controlling costs by reducing paperwork and redundancies.

SETS generates more funding by verifying the efficacy of the program to potential funders.

SETS as a Student Assessment Tool

What Scales (Metrics) are Used?

Sets uses three scales:

1. The Student Observation Scale (completed by teacher / mentor) 2. The Self Esteem Scale (completed by students), 3. The Student Assessment Scale (completed by an adult with knowledge of the student’s behavior).

SETS also contains a Staff Assessment Scale for tracking and assessment of teachers and staff.

Anchor Points

SETS utilizes anchor points to ensure consistent scoring of students' progress. (We can show you this in a tour).

How does SETS Use Goals for Measurement?

Goal setting is one of the measurements used in the student evaluation process. Teachers / mentors set one skill and one personal goal for each student for each assessment period (the assessment period is determined by the program director).

Goals are designed to be achievable by the next observation, thus improving short-term success levels that motivates the student toward self sufficiency in successful learning. Achievement levels of the goals of the preceding period are also scored.

On-screen guidelines facilitate the setting of clear, attainable goals and for scoring the goals’ attainment. All of this information – qualitative and quantitative – is automatically included when evaluation reports are compiled. Funders love this combination of quantitative and qualitative information.

SETS as a Teaching Tool

How is SETS a Teacher Development Tool?

The evaluation and assessment scales focus teachers and staff on the Principles of Empowerment™, core learning skills and abilities that are prerequisites to any real learning or personal empowerment for all students and essential for those who are challenged.

When teachers, mentors or staff are working with students it's as if they have a guide offering various perspectives or points of focus to develop strategies and approaches for their students. By providing these perspectives, SETS becomes an ongoing staff development tool as opposed to short-lived, more superficial techniques.

How Does SETS Support Strengths-based Teaching Methods?

Because SETS highlights student strengths, it allows instructors to develop individualized strategies that encourage achievement while minimizing discouragement. SETS also helps teachers identify student limitations, so they can develop remedial activities and identify and compare the effectiveness of various teaching strategies.

How Was SETS' Assessment Component Developed?

SETS' assessment component uitutilizes and builds upon best practices:

  1. It was developed in conjunction with the resesarch-based methodologies of the Search Institute's Developmental Assets, Jung/Briggs-Myers Personality Assessment, Harold Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.
  2. Working with other educators, social workers, therapists, and research scientists, Merge director Bill Rossi broke new ground by precisely defining the underlying skills and abilities necessary for self-directed learning These Principles of Empowerment™ measure core learning principles in the student's relation himself, in his relation to the teacher, and in relation to his skill development.

Ease of Use

User Friendly?

Day to Day Use: Thanks to years of design, testing, and refining in the field, SETS is so essential, integrated, and fluid to use that it makes sense. That makes it friendly for the day-to-day user.

Initial Configuration: Setting up SETS for use in your organization requires some consideration. If you want great results, first spend time with the Sandbox database to get a feel for how things look and work. Then configure SETS by working through the Program Director Manual step by step. It's a simple process.

Training Requirements

Most day-to-day users are up and going quickly with simple self-training. SETS comes complete with short video tutorials and quick-start manuals, and – for those who want to know more – a comprehensive user manual with answers to every question you could possibly have.

SETS also comes with a “Sandbox” database – a place to play around and get comfortable. If you have questions, we're here for you. We conduct all support via email, adding video screen sharing if necessary.


Technology Requirements

SETS requires Windows XP or Windows 7 or above; Mac users purchase software to bridge to Windows programs. (See note below)

SETS operates on a single computer or Local Area Network. LAN users load the SETS application on each computer; the database is loaded onto the LAN to be accessed by all computers. Each SETS license accommodates installation on all computers within your organization - there is no charge for additional "seats".

Although Merge can not advise on hardware or network setups, if you are a Windows environment you might find this article informative:

Mac Users Note: We do not provide ongoing support for Mac. However, the only issues identified to date are one or two error messages with shutdowns upon first use. If you receive these, be sure to switch data (the switch data button is on the home page) to the Sandbox database before you begin.

Installation and Program Setup

Once you subscribe to SETS, you will be directed back to our site to the page with the download link (right click, save as). Carefully follow the instructions on that page to begin.

Installation will create a SETS folder with user manuals. A SETS shortcut will be placed on your desktop.

Technical Support and Contact

SETS’ ease of use is one of the reasons we can offer it so affordably, but we’re available by email (setshelp(at)merge-education dot com) if you need us. Although rarely necessary, you can purchase phone-based support if desired.

Miscellaneous FAQ


SETS resides on your pc, not the cloud, so the subscription fee is low compared to comparable programs.

Why is SETS so inexpensive compared to other evaluation software? SETS is priced low so community programs can afford it, and tech support by email helps keep prices down.


SETS is complete right out of the box, but you can customize any of the scales if you'd prefer to use your own metrics.

Consult or Tour

Worried you'll get the hard sell if you talk with us? Don't be. We've spent decades in the field; we know you're busy, we know you're smart, and we have no desire whatsoever to sell you SETS if it's not what you need.

Grant Proposal Wording

A request for funding support to purchase SETS will most likely get approved by funders, including foundations looking for assessment or business people who want to support your program but first need to see good management oversight. A board member might also be a willing candidate for funding SETS.

Would you like some wording about SETS you can use in your grant requests? Let us know - we'll be happy to send it to you.

Security Levels

SETS has a specific security scheme to ensure information confidentiality. This scheme is detailed in the user manual; following are the most basic details of three of the levels:

Director Security Level
  • Can add, see and edit all records for all students and staff members
  • Can add, see and edit Attendance records
  • Can add, see and edit student enrollment in activities
  • Can see reports for all students
Administrator Security Level
  • Can add and see records for all students and staff members but cannot edit them
  • Can add new Attendance records but cannot see or edit existing ones
  • Can add, see and edit student enrollment in activities
  • Can see reports for all students
Teacher/Volunteer Security Level
  • Can see the identification records only for his students but cannot edit them once completed
  • Can add new students, but introduce only some basic information
  • Cannot see any staff identification records
What Do You Mean When You Say SETS is Essential?

When we say SETS is essential, we’re referring to its simplicity. Its ability to track the fundamental learning points and behavioral and emotional benchmarks is integrated into the program management. SETS was designed to accomplish a lot without fanfare, to truly make your job easier.

But No One Likes Evaluation!

We hope we're not belaboring the point, but most directors and teachers actually enjoy using SETS. They like how SETS' intuitive design integrates their many tasks, provides comprehensive and easy program oversight, and helps hone their teaching skills by focusing on fundamental learning points.

SETS really does make everyone's job easier.


Brief History

Bill Rossi developed the philosophy behind SETS when he directed and managed a nonprofit youth development program. Drawing from existing resources and methodologies including the Search Institute Assets, Briggs-Myers, Harold Gardener's Multiple Intelligences, and the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale, Bill broke new ground as he worked with other educators, social workers, therapists, evaluation scientists and software developers to make SETS intuitive, cohesive, friendly, and efficient. The application software underwent development, testing, and fine tuning in 2012 and fine tuning from 2020-2022.

The SETS Back Story

Want a few more details on how this assessment software came to be so truly user friendly and intuitive? It's all in the context: a tool that's developed for decades out in the world to serve and accommodate the very real demands of real programs must be highly relevant and easy to use – out of necessity.

From 1985 to 1994, pianist and educator Bill Rossi developed, tested, and fine tuned his unique strengths-based mentoring approach. When he began hiring other teachers in 1994 as executive director of a small after school nonprofit, he saw the need to formalize the program structure and gather assessment data to demonstrate accountability and ensure funding. So the philosophy behind SETS began, and for the first 6 years was developed within a growing community-based program.

Over the years, Rossi worked closely with various social service providers including psychiatrists, therapists, child care workers, social workers, academic teachers, and artist educators.

In 2008, as the country entered a deep financial recession, Bill took his program to the exurbs of Philadelphia. County executives verified that the evaluation tool was the deciding factor in the County’s awarding a series of multi-year contracts. In 2012, SETS underwent beta testing and from 2020-2022 was refined into the essential tool it is today.