Homicide and suicide are among the leading causes of death among school-aged youth in the US. Research has shown that school-based Social Emotional Learning (SEL) interventions improve students’ emotional and behavioral outcomes, including violence and suicide attempts, but these positive results are difficult to sustain without longer-term changes in the whole school culture. The ACE Culture Coach program is a new and innovative initiative that addresses the need for long-term cultural change by placing full-time SEL professionals (Culture Coaches) in partnering schools. Culture Coaches are trained to analyze data from student, teacher, and parent surveys to identify areas in need of social, emotional, and mental health intervention and to then coach school personnel on how to address these areas with evidence-based strategies. School and student outcomes are evaluated with repeated student, teacher, and parent surveys.
So what does it mean to coach? Formal, professional coaching is carried out by qualified people who work with clients to improve their effectiveness and performance and help them achieve their full potential. In the context of the Culture Coach, coaching is focused specifically on working with school personnel to create positive cultural change by improving the effectiveness and performance of social and emotional policies and interventions. The coach's job is to present the current school-specific data and ask the right questions to help school personnel arrive at their own conclusions about which evidence-based interventions will work best in their school/ classroom environments. Once an intervention is chosen, the coach will evaluate the effectiveness of that intervention over time and may assist in implementation.
Culture Coaching is a dynamic process that facilitates buy-in and investment on the part of school personnel, a key component in any cultural shift within a school. Because coaching is a process that focuses on helping the coachee discover answers for themselves, people are much more likely to engage with solutions that can lead to positive cultural change and improved emotional and behavioral outcomes. Positive outcomes which research also links to improved academic achievement, attendance, graduation rates, and workforce performance.