Why We Chose WINGS for Kids
The South Carolina after-school program is a carefully-developed model with lots of resources to share.
Heart and Mind:
During the daily Academic Time, WINGS instructor Mallory Dorsey (center) reminds third-grader Tamarr about skills such as perseverance and encouraging oneself. Troy, grade 4 (right), prepares to do his school work in Academic Time.
Credit: Grace Rubenstein
Our Schools That Work series explores what goes on at some of the most innovative, successful schools around the country. These range from schools with long-standing records of high performance to turnaround schools now on the road to substantially higher achievement. We visit each school to take a close-up look at its best practices and the specific challenges it faces, then we assemble a package of stories and hands-on tools that you can use to replicate some of the school's successes.
We chose WINGS for Kids, a Charleston, South Carolina-based program, because it has been developed carefully over more than a decade. Founder Ginny Deerin and Executive Director Bridget Laird based the curriculum on established standards from the national Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and bolstered their efforts by creating a system to regularly evaluate and support teachers.
We picked the nonprofit WINGS also because it demonstrates a promising niche for social and emotional lessons: after school. A study by CASEL that focused specifically on after-school SEL programs found that they improve students' behavior and school performance -- provided their instruction follows certain standards of rigor, as WINGS's does.
As for the impact of WINGS itself, the organization is gathering data on its hundreds of alumni to gauge the program's effect. Meanwhile, there are positive signs. In the first class of WINGS students, a small group of 18 who entered the program in 1999, the high school graduation rate was 40 percent higher than among their non-WINGS peers. Anecdotally, teachers report that WINGS students behave and perform better during the regular school day.
There is evidence on the positive impact of SEL programs in general. A meta-analysis by CASEL of more than 700 such programs found that they improve students' performance on academic tests by 11 to 17 percentage points. For more information and examples of schools practicing SEL, check out Edutopia's SEL Core Strategy page.
Plus, Deerin, Laird and colleagues have tried things that didn't work -- like expanding into the middle-school grades, which spread their resources too thin -- and honed their program over time. Now, they feel like their methods are ready for prime time, and they're eager to share their resources and tips with you.