A Nationwide Look at Middle School Students’ Sense of Belonging

Researchers have identified a strong sense of belonging to one’s school community as a key indicator of future success in and out of school. So how many students feel that strong sense of belonging, and what are the implications of that lack of connectedness? Our newest insight report, The Importance of Belonging, helps us explore this complex and critical question.

Our partnership with the United Way Worldwide, NFL and Verizon gives us the chance to reach tens of thousands of students through Character Playbook. The course surveys provide us a deeper understanding of students’ sense of belonging and also helped us identify additional characteristics that students who don’t feel that strong sense of belonging possess.

Our analysis uncovered some really interesting findings:

  • 29 percent of students report a weak or negative sense of belonging to their school community
  • There was a positive linear correlation between students who felt less connected and their likelihood to help others and treat people with respect.
  • Students who felt a weak or negative sense of belonging were less likely to identify and intervene in abusive or unhealthy relationships.

We know educators work tirelessly every day to create safe, joyful, and inclusive learning environments where all students feel a strong sense of belonging. We take an enormous amount of pride in supporting thousands of schools’ social-emotional learning work through the implementation of Character Playbook. This report confirms previous research that says these efforts are critical to students’ long-term success and are worthy of further support and evaluation.


Interested in building a stronger sense of belonging amongst your students? In addition to checking out Character Playbook, here are some additional strategies that can help you with this work:

  • Through the clear articulation of a shared language and terminology, a school can help students understand what the school’s core values mean in everyday behavior and grasp the reasons why some behaviors (e.g., doing your best and respecting others) represent good character and are valued while their opposites do not (Character.org).
  • Consider “Warmth and Support” Practices. Warmth and support refer to the academic and social support that students receive from their teacher and from their peers. The teacher creates a classroom where the students know that teachers care about them. Teachers can demonstrate that they care about their students by asking students questions (academic and non-academic), following up with students when they have a problem or concern, providing the teacher’s own anecdotes or stories, and acting in ways in which students know that taking risks and asking questions are safe in the classroom (CASEL/American Institutes for Research).
  • Integrate school climate and our social-emotional learning data with existing work. By leveraging instructional data and survey responses alongside suspension rates, absentee frequency and academic performance, educators can better identify and understand the breadth of the school connectedness challenges their students face (National School Climate Center).

 

 


 

Steve Sandak is a member of EVEFI’s Research team. His work focuses on the impact of our K-12 learning platform. Steve is a former high school educator, and is based in our Boston office.

November in Canada is Financial Literacy & Career Month

Happy Career Development Month! This month, we are highlighting resources…

November is National Career Development Month

Happy Career Development Month! This month, we are highlighting resources…

Are Girls Less Prepared for Entrepreneurship?

Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah, Elon Musk, Arianna Huffington, Jay-Z…these are each household names who also represent some of America’s most successful entrepreneurs. But who will be the next generation of dreamers to come up with a big idea that will change the world? At EVERFI, we think it’s not enough to just ask these questions. We work side by side with educators to inspire all students to recognize the entrepreneur inside of themselves. We are excited to share our most recent deep dive into one of our most widely used courses, Venture – Entrepreneurial Expedition™. 

Measuring Up – Venture takes a look at survey responses from students throughout the country to understand which students know what it means to be an entrepreneur, who sees themselves as an entrepreneur, and who has the skills to actually make it happen. What did we find out? A few highlights below:

  • Venture helps all students become more knowledgeable and prepared to become entrepreneurs.
  • Before taking Venture, girls felt less prepared than boys to launch a venture. Afterwards, that gender gap closed and the overall level of preparedness increased for all students.
  • Girls were at least as knowledgeable as boys— and in some instances more knowledgeable— before taking Venture.

What did we learn? Entrepreneurship education should be for everyone and our students, specifically young girls, are up to the task! Ensuring greater access and support for this path should be a priority for educators as they think about a broader college and career readiness strategy for their students. We need more young people thinking creatively and independently about how they will solve the problems of tomorrow.

Looking for a few ideas make this actionable at your school and encourage girls in entrepreneurship?

  1. Explore Female Entrepreneurs: We’ve mentioned Oprah and Arianna Huffington, but what other female entrepreneurs have your students not yet heard of? Introduce them to America’s 10 Most Successful Women Entrepreneurs, and create opportunities for researching beyond the top ten.
  2. Take a Female Business Deep Dive: Where are most female business owners? What problems are they focused on achieving? Explore the National Women’s Business Council Fact Sheet on Women Owned Businesses and see what students find most interesting.
  3. Entrepreneurship Education Audit – What are the classes that talk about business and entrepreneurship at your school? Are they required classes or electives?

So what do these findings mean to you? How is your school making classes and instruction related to entrepreneurship available to as many students as possible? We’d love to hear your ideas and best practices about what entrepreneurship education looks like in your community.


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Steve Sandak is a member of EVEFI’s Research team. His work focuses on the impact of our K-12 learning platform. Steve is a former high school educator, and is based in our Boston office.

Educator Spotlight: Sarah Ketsman

Our network of K-12 teachers is EVERFI’s heartbeat. That’s why we’ve launched Educator Spotlights: Stories from the Classroom. Every couple of months, we’ll invite you inside the classrooms of inspiring educators to get a glimpse into how and why they keep doing what they do. Enjoy!

The students are extremely engaged in learning about making money, budgeting and saving money for long-term goals.


Teacher:  Sarah Ketsman

Subject: Financial Literacy

School:  Ste. Marie School, Canada

Resource:  Vault: Understanding Money (Grades 4-6)

 

Sarah wears two hats: she’s Principal and a teacher at Ste. Marie School in the province of Manitoba in Canada. Local EVERFI Schools Manager Leila knows how much Sarah values financial literacy so she asked Sarah to share some tips from her classroom.

Why are you using Vault – Understanding Money in your classroom?

We’re using Vault in our classroom again this year as it complements our Financial Literacy course that we have timetabled in for all Grade 4-8 students. Our school goal this year for Numeracy is Financial Literacy. We have incorporated programs such as Vault, the Real Game and have introduced our students to a Class Economy as part of our teachings. The students are extremely engaged in learning about making money, budgeting and saving money for long-term goals.

Is there a particular Vault lesson that fits well into what you’re currently teaching?

The lesson that fits nicely with what we are currently learning is Responsible Money Choices. In our class economy the students “make money” by completing daily tasks such as finishing homework on time, coming to class prepared and so forth. Every several weeks they have the option of saving their money for a larger prize / reward or spending it on a smaller prize / reward. The Responsible Money Choices module gives the students a good foundation on the importance of making wise choices with their money.

Learn more about Vault

 

Want to share a story from your classroom? Email Lisa at ljwright@everfi.com.

Read Kim’s story.

Watch Brian and Jill’s story.

Read Carmen’s story.

Educator Spotlight: Brian Canupp and Jill Woody

Our network of K-12 teachers is EVERFI’s heartbeat. That’s why we’ve launched Educator Spotlights: Stories from the Classroom. Every couple of months, we’ll invite you inside the classrooms of inspiring educators to get a glimpse into how and why they keep doing what they do. Enjoy!

“When teachers participate in the lessons with their students, it gets really enriching. I can see the questions popping up in the students’ minds and that’s where the engaging discussions begin.”


Teachers:  Brian Canupp and Jill Woody

Subject:  Professional Guidance Counselors

School:  Carmel Middle School, North Carolina

Resource:  Character Playbook (Grades 7-9)

As middle school guidance counselors, Brian and Jill know how important it is to talk their students through the steps of building and maintaining healthy relationships. Here, they open up to Local Schools Manager Peter about how their students’ curiosity was sparked when they used Character Playbook, leading to deeper conversations around healthy relationships.

Learn more about Character Playbook

 

Want to share a story from your classroom? Email Lisa at ljwright@everfi.com.

Read Sarah’s story.

Read Kim’s story.

Read Carmen’s story.

Educator Spotlight: Kim Kramer

Our network of K-12 teachers is EVERFI’s heartbeat. That’s why we’ve launched Educator Spotlights: Stories from the Classroom. Every couple of months, we’ll invite you inside the classrooms of inspiring educators to get a glimpse into how and why they keep doing what they do. Enjoy!

“My Principal then told me that because of me and my class, he and his wife are getting lectured on how to better budget and handle their money when they make purchases.”


Teacher:  Kim Kramer

Subject:  Family and Consumer Sciences

School:  JSW Middle School, Pennsylvania

Resource:  FutureSmart (Grades 6-8)

 

Kim is passionate about teaching her students smart money habits before they reach high school. Pennsylvania Schools Manager Alyssa talked to Kim to see why she chose FutureSmart to engage her class.

What personal impact do you hope FutureSmart will have on your students?

It is my hope that students will gain a better understanding of finance by completing the FutureSmart program.  As 8th graders, they are just now starting to really care about money and have the desire to look towards the future (college, jobs, buying cars, etc.).  It’s important that I begin to lay down the foundation of those principles.  Budgeting, banking, saving, planning for the future…these are all concepts that kids are not too young to learn about- in fact they need to. For most people, money is the biggest stressor in their life…and it’s not always about how much you make, but how you budget and handle the money you do make.  So my hope is that because of this program, they will make better decisions related to money now and into their future.

What is one piece of advice you would pass on to a teacher using FutureSmart for the first time?

Kim’s 8th Grade Class

My advice to teachers using it for the first time is to have ear buds readily available for students to use.  Having the avatar “talk to students” is a great tool (especially for kids who do need assistance with reading), and having ear buds allows student to use this tool without disrupting other students, especially since it’s a self-paced program.  I would also suggest being prepared to work one-on-one with students who may struggle with the assessments and of course taking the time to read through the essay questions to clarify student understanding.

What is your funniest teaching story?

One of the funniest stories is when I had my principal’s son in my Family & Consumer Sciences class, where I taught units on such topics as Cooking, Nutrition, and Financial Management…including this EVERFI course.  After the semester ended, my principal called me aside and told me that I was in trouble.  I had this shocked look on my face like, “What did I do?”  He then jokingly told me that because of me and my class, he and his wife are now getting lectured and corrected daily on proper safety tips when cooking in the kitchen, how they should eat healthier, and how to better budget and handle their money when they make purchases.  We both laughed.   He said that as annoying as it can be, he’s knows his son paid attention in class and he’s actually learning from him!  He and his wife are now trying to be more conscientious and mindful about being good role models when it comes to teaching their kids good spending habits and the importance of saving for the future.

Learn more about FutureSmart

 

Want to share a story from your classroom? Email Lisa at ljwright@everfi.com.

Read Sarah’s story.

Watch Brian and Jill’s story.

Read Carmen’s story.

Educator Spotlight: Carmen Rednic

Our network of K-12 teachers is EVERFI’s heartbeat. That’s why we’ve launched Educator Spotlights: Stories from the Classroom. Every couple of months, we’ll invite you inside the classrooms of inspiring educators to get a glimpse into how and why they keep doing what they do. Enjoy!

“From my experience of learning about money on my own, I recognize how important it is for the school to teach this critical skill. It’s as crucial as learning how to read and write.”


Teacher:  Carmen Rednic

Subject:  Finance and Business

School:  Fordson High School, Michigan

Resource:  EVERFI – Financial Literacy (Grades 9-12)

 

EVERFI Michigan Schools Manager Samantha caught up with Carmen, a Finance and Business Teacher at Fordson High School, to see why she keeps coming back to EVERFI – Financial Literacy as a key resource in her classroom.

How does EVERFI align with the subject matter you’re covering with your students?

I’m currently using the Credit Score lesson with my class. It’s critical for students to understand that each person’s credit history is completely unique, and that the behaviors and habits they form now will stick with them. If they have a good understanding of their credit score, they will be better prepared to make smart decisions around money. This lesson teaches, for example, that to apply for a car or an apartment, you must have a good credit score. 

What personal impact do you hope EVERFI will have on your students?

EVERFI opens up my students’ eyes as far as “hey- this is really important.” Students think that being in a little bit of debt isn’t a big deal, without realizing that once you get into debt, it gets harder to get out. My hope is that this program helps them make better decisions in life. Students oftentimes learn bad habits from their families. Without financial literacy education at school, they are likely to fall into the same pitfalls as their parents. Awareness is a first step.

What is one piece of advice you would pass on to teachers using EVERFI for the first time?

Financial literacy is a life skill that every student needs. Personally, when I arrived in this country, I had no awareness of credit scores. My parents never taught me. Most of my students were born here, but many of their parents were newcomers at some point. From my experience of learning about money on my own, I recognize how important it is for the school to teach this critical skill. It’s as crucial as learning how to read and write.

I reiterate the same material over and over again, but in different ways. It’s not just online, it’s in a book, 1:1, conversational, etc. EVERFI is one of the ways I can differentiate these financial concepts. Students can go back and answer the assessment questions again, can ask me questions, can have discussions, which helps them better understand what I’m teaching. A lot of the time, we cover the same topic later on in the semester, and they make the connection.

 

Learn more about EVERFI

 

Want to share a story from your classroom? Email Lisa at ljwright@everfi.com.

Read Sarah’s story.

Watch Brian and Jill’s story.

Read Kim’s story.

Inspiring Students Through STEM Education

STEM Education

Economically, the need to provide future generations with STEM education has never been more pressing. Experts believe that up to 85% percent of the jobs today’s students will occupy don’t yet exist. Science and engineering career opportunities are expected to grow at double the rate of growth of the overall workforce and the vast majority of jobs in the next decade will require STEM skills.

How then do we prepare students for the careers of 2030? What skills, knowledge, and attitudes will help guide and prepare students for the technologically-infused careers of the future? While it might be up to a decade before today’s 6th graders enter the full-time workforce, middle school is the ideal time for students to begin seriously considering what may lay beyond high school.

Leading research indicates that most students form their career aspirations by age 14, a compelling rationale to bring career exploration front and center during the critical middle school years. Further research demonstrates that one of the leading indicators for student interest in STEM when departing high school is directly linked to the student’s interest in STEM when they entered high school. As such, it is critical to engage and sustain interest before students begin to think about selecting courses for high school.

Endeavor – STEM Career Exploration is EVERFI’s latest course to spark curiosity in STEM careers and reinforce critical STEM education in classrooms each day. This interactive digital program encourages learners to explore the wide world of STEM and inspires middle school students to consider how their individual qualities, skills, and interests might align with future STEM career opportunities.

Four key components comprise the backbone of the Endeavor course experience:

  • Exposure to real professionals. Throughout the course, students encounter a variety of STEM career opportunities and pathways. These careers represent diverse industries served by STEM and reflect a variety of educational and skill requirements.
  • Grounded in real-world activities. Research indicates a gap between students’ perception of “school science” versus science in the “real world”. Endeavor highlights novel, real-world applications of STEM in our surrounding world.
  • Deep personalization.  As students move through Endeavor, they are encouraged to explore careers and content that connect to their interests and skills.
  • Individualized take-away. As they complete different lessons, students build  an individualized Field Guide – a digital resource containing actionable next steps and course pathing suggestions for students to pursue now, and down the road, as they prepare for the careers of the future.

By connecting students’ interests to future STEM opportunities, Endeavor will engage students in critical STEM skills and encourage them to pursue future STEM careers, whether a contemporary occupation or a potential opportunity that currently only exists in possibility.