Terrace Metrics Provides A Comprehensive Approach that SEL Assessments Lack

Confusion has been growing amongst many parents and schools regarding the concept of SEL (Social Emotional Learning) and SEL assessments. This article will explain what the SEL framework is, how SEL assessments are used, their limitations, and why a comprehensive behavioral health assessment is more helpful for schools, parents, and students.

Table of Contents:

  • What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?
  • How are Educators using SEL?
  • What is an SEL Assessment?
  • The Limitations of SEL Assessments
  • What is Behavioral Health?
  • Terrace Metrics’ Behavioral Health and Wellness System
  • The Unique Benefits of Terrace Metrics
  • A Proactive Model
  • The Terrace Metrics Difference
  • The Founders

What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Social-Emotional Learning aims to give students the tools to become more aware of their own thoughts and emotions. SEL focuses on the five competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and making responsible decisions. This framework allows students to empathize with each other through self-awareness. In turn, improving communication skills and giving them more confidence in their decision making. SEL helps students build better relationships with peers and adults. 

How are Educators using SEL?

Typically, SEL is not a subject like English or Math, but it is folded into the subject matter, making it more relatable to a student’s life. For example, when teaching Earth Science, an educator would show how everyday actions of an individual can collectively impact climate change. By doing this, students become more involved in the classroom and their own reactions to these topics. There are different ways that educators are introducing SEL into the classroom.  SEL has students engage with the world they are a part of in a real way to develop their intellect, emotions, and understand their impact on the world. 

What is an SEL Assessment?

Educators want to be able to measure the results of their efforts and their methods. SEL assessments offer a way to measure students’ progress and growth. They are typically offered in the form of student surveys. The data from these surveys can be used to make better decisions for the district and the students. This means, if there is something in their current methodology that isn’t working then the survey will be able to detect that. School leaders and educators are empowered to make the right decisions based on clear data. But what if the problems that impact students are outside of the scope of SEL itself? 

The Limitations SEL Assessments

SEL assessments are limited when schools are using them to address behavioral health issues. SEL focuses typically on strengths but not indicators of adversity, which is really only half of the behavioral health equation. In addition, SEL assessments only offer aggregate data, which prevents school leaders from addressing individuals in need. SEL assessments are being used to solve problems that are outside the scope of SEL. Behavioral Health is a more comprehensive framework that is being embraced by schools and communities because of its ability to go beyond SEL and address issues at the individual level. 

What is Behavioral Health?

Behavioral health shows how the state of a person’s overall health (mental, emotional, and physical) influences their behaviors. This includes internal strengths, social support systems, and level of adversity. Behavioral health incorporates aspects of the SEL framework but it is based on resiliency science. Resiliency science shows how if a person has high internal strengths and positive social supports then they are more able to work through or overcome any adversity they may be facing. This is an important concept because the resiliency science framework focuses on the individual student, not group characteristics.  In other words, just because a student may be in an “at risk” group for poor outcomes (e.g., living in an impoverished and/or crime-ridden area), it doesn’t mean they will succumb to that outcome. If that student has sufficient internal resources and social supports, they are more likely to successfully work through or overcome any adversity they may be experiencing.

However, a student’s behavioral health becomes compromised if their internal strengths and social supports are below a certain level, leaving them vulnerable to the negative effects of adversity. Even if a student is not currently experiencing adversity, they are vulnerable to its negative effects should it occur. 

The issues that schools are attempting to solve are often far more complex that SEL assessments can address. What is required is a complete Behavioral Health and Wellness System-not only to assess students’ behavioral health but also to offer solutions for schools and families. 

Terrace Metrics’ Behavioral Health and Wellness System

The Terrace Metrics’ Behavioral Health and Wellness System is a comprehensive, empirically-based framework that quickly and accurately assesses the behavioral health of all students from grades 3 through 12. Developed by nationally known educators and mental health professionals, Terrace Metrics assesses the strongest predictors of interpersonal and intrapersonal functioning, which are vital to current and future academic success. Terrace Metrics’ proprietary software immediately provides the results to select school personnel. These results are accompanied by parent and educator videos, curricula, and other resources. The information is easy to access and understand and has been highly utilized by schools and parents. The process is efficient (requiring little of school resources) and financially sensible for school districts. Most important, districts that use the Terrace Metrics system yield substantial improvements in behavioral functioning and academic outcomes.The assessment component of the system is fast (15 minutes) and the results are directly linked to empirically-based resources and Tier I and Tier II curricula to support students individually, and school-wide. 

The Terrace Metrics Process:

  1. Establish Champion Teams:
    The first step when working with a school or district is to identify members as “Champions”. District Champions consist of a small team of administrators that help coordinate the activities in each school. Each school has counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses and/or key administrators, collectively called School Champions. Both teams are trained  on how to administer and act on the reports that the Terrace Metrics assessment provides, and on the curriculum and other resources directly tied to the data.
  2. Consent & Assess
    All parents must provide consent, which can also be monitored by Terrace Metrics. For students who have been given consent, they complete the 15-minute assessment on a designated day and time, in their classroom. Receiving the link to their customized assessment is done in an instant. Because the process is easy, most districts and schools assess their student population twice in an academic year to measure response to interventions.
  3. Report, Plan, and Act
    The Terrace Metrics system is customized according to school needs; Champions select the indicators they wish for each group. Once the assessment is completed by all students, a comprehensive report is immediately generated that provides a collective behavioral health summary of the group. Terrace Metrics will assist in interpreting data and will provide the best practices on how to address certain issues. A report can be generated for parents as well. All reports provide resources to address the most critical issue a student may be having. The key is to get families, students, school champions, and district administrators working together to build resilience in individuals and the overall student population.
    (Important: Only District/School Champions and parents have access to student data. Terrace Metrics does not have access to student data.)
  4. Promote Resiliency
    The reports provide data on adversity but are more geared to promoting resilience. By promoting those strengths the students will be equipped to overcome adversity. Districts can control some adversity factors but promoting resilience is much simpler. By promoting resilience within students in their formative years, they learn how to build those internal strengths and set up social support systems. These are skills that will empower them throughout their lives and give them the strength to stand against adversity.

This behavioral health system promotes resilience in two ways: parent and educator video content and Tier 1 (school-wide) and Tier 2 (group-specific) curriculum. Parent and educator reports generated for individuals provide video content. The 3-5 minute video’s give accessible and empirically-based suggestions on how to increase a resiliency score or decrease/address a risk score. Similarly, on the Tier 1 and Tier 2 reports there is a curriculum designed to increase resilience scores or decrease risk scores. Schools use these curriculum modules school-wide, classroom-wide, or for small-groups to promote these areas.

The Unique Benefits of Terrace Metrics

Working with Terrace Metrics and using their Behavioral Health and Wellness System is a long-term solution that consistently builds resilience within students and schools. Not just students who are at risk, but for students that are already doing well. Building up students who are already doing well and increasing their internal strengths help the student body as a whole. As students graduate and new students enter the school there will always be opportunities for consistent assessment and growth. 

A Proactive Model:

The Terrace Metrics System is based on a proactive model, as opposed to the reactive model that has been adopted by schools for the past 70 years. Simply put, schools that use the reactive model have to wait for the problem to become severe enough to be brought to the attention of the school. Unfortunately, this passive way of catching problems means that many student issues are never noticed, often leaving them to struggle in silence. President and Co-founder of Terrace Metrics, Dr. Rich Gilman deals with the problem of the reactive model head-on:

“The reactive model no longer works in our society, where the sources of distress have become more complex and the outcomes more damaging to the student, their loved ones, and the community as a whole.  Research shows that the time between a problem that first emerges in a student and when it is brought to the attention of schools can be years. By then, the problem often becomes severe and certainly more expensive for schools and families to address. We wanted to create a system to address emerging problems, one that is easy to use, valid, and can be applied to all students.”

The Terrace Metrics Difference

“There are many more people who are suffering in silence than you think. Most of us would ever know. And the ability to both identify and therefore, intervene in people, especially children, who are suffering is absolutely critical.”

-Dr. Kathleen Chard (CEO & Co-founder)

The Founders

Terrace Metrics was founded by mental health professionals who have spent their lives dedicated to healing trauma, understanding adversity, and learning how to build resilience within diverse populations and individuals. Dr. Kathleen Chard (CEO & Founder) is an international expert on trauma and adversity for over 25 years. Her dedication is helping people recover from traumatic events but also helping people prevent a trauma reaction to stressful life events.

Dr. Rich Gilman saw how declining behavioral health impacts the functioning of organizations and how it affected the academic success of students. Prior to co-founding the company, he interviewed hundreds of schools to pinpoint their unique needs and continued his research in resilience science to better determine the most robust predictors of optimal functioning. 

Terrace Metrics it isn’t just about optimal functioning. For Dr. Chard and Dr. Gilman, Terrace Metrics is about saving lives and giving people a better chance at thriving throughout their lives. They help people understand themselves and get them connected with the resources that are going to make the biggest difference. 

With intensive dedication to preventing trauma, and building resilience, Dr. Chard and Dr. Gilman are a formidable team in the industry because they lead with heart. By partnering with school administrators and mental health professionals they are able to make a life-long difference in student’s lives.