C Squad/CREW Pilot Shows Strong Positive Results

July 21, 2017

Evaluations find that our C Squad curriculum increases engagement and builds skills in middle school students.

During 2016 (winter-spring of the 2015-16 school year and throughout 2016-17), Morningside Center supported 13 NYC expanded-day programs in piloting our C Squad curriculum – which was then called CREW.  

Some 495 young people in these programs participated in CREW during the period, and we provided training and/or coaching to 58 after-school staff. 

The sites piloting the CREW curriculum engaged students in regular CREW sessions – about twice per week, on average. In evaluations completed by CBO staff after conducting CREW sessions:

  • 94% agreed or strongly agreed that the topic was relevant to students.
  • 85% agreed or strongly agreed that students improved their understanding of the topic.
  • 81% agreed or strongly agreed that students responded positively to the activities.

Staff reported that students were engaged and excited by CREW activities, including the creation of the group’s community values, making a meaningful center piece for their circle, and sharing experiences and reflections. Students also liked games, icebreakers, singing, dancing and other lighter activities. One CREW leader commented that “the kids were very excited about the lesson and seemed almost too enthusiastic”!  Other comments included:

  • “Students were able to open up almost immediately.”
  • “Students were very much into the topic. They asked questions and also had some helping answers to others’ questions.”
  • “It produced a great discussion. It helped bring the kids closer to everything [and to better understand] bullying and how adults were affected also.”
  • “Students spoke in depth about struggles they want to change before high school.”
  • “Students found common ground with others outside their cliques.”
  • “The values and community agreements of CREW were a high point because I knew what we were doing is sinking in.”
  • Everyone was cooperative and willing to learn one another’s backgrounds…. They really established themselves as a happy, comfortable group during that session.”
  • “It was amazing to see how much students remembered from past sessions.  It showed the activities were really impactful.”
  • “Students offered alternatives to put-downs that were so creative and heart-warming.”
  • “The youth shared amazing memories that honestly made the group feel like a whole unit.”
  • “Students left me amazed about the maturity they showed while speaking and giving advice.”

PEAR Evaluation

We partnered with PEAR (Program in Education, Afterschool and Resiliency) to assess the impact of CREW on students’ social and emotional development at three of the participating sites. PEAR was founded in 1999 by Gil Noam, a nationally recognized developmental psychologist. PEAR is a joint initiative of Harvard University and McLean Hospital.

Staff from the participating sites administered PEAR surveys in late fall and winter of 2015 and again in June of 2016.  In the fall, 166 students took PEAR’s “Holistic Student Assessment” (HSA) survey. This survey, which can be taken online or on paper, includes 86 questions aimed at providing a picture of students’ social and emotional strengths and challenges in areas such as emotion control, assertiveness, empathy, learning interest, and relationships with peers and adults. 

Also in the fall, students completed a separate survey recommended by PEAR, the “Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.” This survey assesses positive and negative aspects of students’ behavior and indicates whether interventions are needed. This data (in aggregate for each group) were provided to site directors and to Morningside Center. Site directors participated in an interpretation webinar with a PEAR coach to help analyze the results and identify trends among programs. The site directors themselves shared findings with staff and in some cases with school administration with the goal of providing students with needed supports.

In the spring, 131 students took PEAR’s HSA Retrospective survey. The survey contains the same items as HSA for assessing students’ social-emotional development, but asks students to reflect on how they feel today compared to the beginning of this school year on each of the questions. The survey is designed to assess program impact and student-reported change.  The students taking the survey were 59% Latino, 15% Black, 19% multi-racial, and 2% white.

The survey found that students reported “statistically significant positive change” on 13 of the 14 areas measured (action orientation, assertiveness, trust, empathy, reflection, optimism, learning interest, critical thinking, perseverance, academic motivation, school bonding, peer relationships, and adult relationships).

PEAR staff told us that overall, students in all three programs showed more robust improvements than are typical for the survey.