WINGS for kids Celebrates 20th Anniversary with National Expansion, Significant Impact on Students

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Charleston-Based Organization Launches Programs and Partnership in Three Locations, Highlights Notable Results in Charleston Region

WINGS for kids is celebrating two decades as a leader in social and emotional learning (SEL) for kids in low-income communities with direct-service expansion in the Southeast, a pilot afterschool affiliate partnership program in California, and new data that shows the program’s significant impact on chronic absenteeism and disciplinary referrals—two key issues that prevent young people from succeeding in school and can lead to a higher likelihood of dropping out of high school.

WINGS for kids incorporates SEL into a daily afterschool program for kids in grades K-5 to give them the life lessons they need to succeed and be happy. The only educational program of its kind focused exclusively on social and emotional skills in an afterschool setting, WINGS currently serves more than 1,800 kids in underserved communities across four states every day during the school year through direct service programs and afterschool affiliate partnerships.

“All kids need to develop social and emotional skills to succeed in school and in life,” said Bridget Laird, chief executive officer of WINGS. “By expanding into new schools and districts and piloting a new model to deliver our SEL-focused programming through partnerships with other afterschool providers, we hope that we will help more kids, particularly those who attend Title I schools and are at-risk, build these critical competencies and be set up for long-term success.”

Regional and National Expansion

The 2016-17 school year brings additional programs to Atlanta, Ga., and Charlotte, N.C., which will follow WINGS’ direct-service model of a research-based curriculum led by college students, known as WINGSLeaders. The addition of these new programs will double WINGS’ footprint in Charlotte, and will make Atlanta the largest region that WINGS serves.

In an effort to reach a greater number of students nationally, WINGS is partnering with Pomona Unified School District in Pomona, Calif., to pilot a new delivery model with early support from Philanthropy and Community Engagement (PACE) and the George Lucas Foundation. Using their approach to social and emotional learning, proven explicit and implicit curriculum, and proactive and corrective behavior techniques, WINGS will be working with Pomona’s existing afterschool program, The Learning Connection (T.L.C.), to train their site directors in SEL skill building and creating a culture of SEL in their programs.

Significant Impact in Charleston

Data from the 2015-16 school year shows the significant impact that WINGS has on students in Charleston, S.C. elementary schools, WINGS' longest served region. Most notable is the positive effect of WINGS on students’ chronic absenteeism and discipline referrals compared to kids who are not participating in the afterschool program—proof that the development of social and emotional skills have a tangible impact on student behavior and success in school.

At each of the three school-based programs in Charleston, the average number of WINGS kids who received a disciplinary referral was 30.3, compared to 112.7 among non-WINGS kids at those schools. The data on chronic absenteeism, a problem affecting 6.5 million students each year and a key indicator that a student may drop out of high school, is also remarkable. Four percent of WINGS kids were chronically absent last school year, compared to 12 percent of non-WINGS kids—meaning WINGS kids were 67 percent less likely to be chronically absent than non-WINGS kids in the same schools.

National Trends Among WINGS Kids

In addition to the end-of-year data from Charleston, WINGS continues to show a number of significant trends regarding its positive impact on kids served. Preliminary results from a forthcoming randomized controlled trial study on the impact of WINGS kids who have attended the program for two years show that teachers in schools served by WINGS witness the positive influence the program has had on their students’ lives, including improved peer interaction in class, better classroom relationships with their teachers, and reduced bullying behaviors and hyperactivity. These strides reflect the five core competencies of SEL at the heart of WINGS programming, illustrating that WINGS kids are making the skills they build during afterschool activities a part of their everyday behaviors in the classroom.

The study results also show statistically significant positive effects in two important measures: a performance measure of executive function—the skills everyone uses to organize and act on information—and a teacher-rated measure of improved classroom behavior. This research, expected to be released in 2017, shows the promise of stronger, more consistent effects of WINGS’ SEL curriculum on at-risk kids.

“As social and emotional learning becomes a more integral part of afterschool programs, WINGS for kids has valuable lessons learned, from rigorous research to implementation studies, that help to fill the gap in research on this topic,” said Dr. Deborah Moroney, principal researcher and director of the social and emotional learning practice area at the American Institutes for Research. “There is a growing national interest in prioritizing social and behavioral outcomes among our students. WINGS’ work provides valuable insight into how this can effectively be integrated into afterschool programming.”

To learn more about WINGS for kids, please visit their website.

About WINGS for kids
WINGS for kids is a nonprofit education program that teaches kids how to behave well, make good decisions and build healthy relationships. The program weaves a comprehensive social and emotional learning curriculum into a fresh and fun afterschool program—specifically targeted toward supporting low-income, minority students. Kids get the life lessons they need to succeed and be happy, and a safe place to call home after the school day ends.


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