August 14, 2023

Countdown to the 2023-24 school year! Part 2

August 7, 2023

The next school year is right around the corner and the Read Ahead team is hard at work getting ready for another year of reading, mentoring, and joy.

As we count down to Fall 2023, we’re sharing some interesting articles, highlights from last year, and behind the scenes info. We’ll post new info every couple of weeks. We hope you enjoy!


What happened to the social-emotional screening tool that NYC schools began using last year?

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has been a  hot topic in education for nearly 30 years, with the challenges of the pandemic igniting an urgent and renewed interest among educators. This framework emphasizes the importance of student mental health and well-being in educational settings, and includes five “core competencies” thought to help students succeed in and out of school: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. 

Last year, New York City public schools rolled out a new screening tool to assess students’ social skills that sparked controversy. This 5-minute assessment tool was designed to identify students’ emotional distress and issues. The initial citywide mandate to utilize this assessment was met with pushback from staff members and families alike. Some families had concerns around student data and privacy, while others were concerned that the assessment took away from students’ time in the classroom to build relationships with their teachers.

School personnel also raised concerns for example that, the screening took away from necessary instructional learning time, and staff members felt the assessment did not accurately represent the mental health needs of their students. 

In the past year, schools have slowly opted out of using the tool and New York City public schools will officially discontinue using this screening tool. While this tool is no longer in place district wide, New York City schools will continue  to work in partnership with enrichment programs to support their students’ social emotional learning development. 

Read more about the DESSA in NYC schools in the Chalkbeat article linked above.


As a reading incentive this past spring, our Program Coordinators led a March Madness Challenge for all of our mentees. Similar to the spirit of competition in college basketball tournaments, Read Ahead encouraged mentees to compete for most points collected in the month of March. Mentees were able to collect points by number of books read, completing reading activities, and more! 10 MVP winners were selected from each school to receive fun prizes including a Highlights Jumbo Book of Hidden Pictures, stickers, Read Ahead Swag, mini basketball stress balls, and notebook! All mentees who participated were recognized for their hard work with a March Madness certificate of completion! March Madness helped boost BookNook usage and the number of books read across all of Read Ahead, so everyone came out a winner. Thank you to all of the mentors who helped their mentees participate!

Check out other parts of this series on the Read Ahead Blog and learn more about becoming a Read Ahead mentor on our website.