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Understanding the Students

Currently there is little research surrounding the challenges faced by the Independent School student population. What we do know is that similar populations in suburban settings have higher rates of substance use than the national average, as well as higher rates of depression and anxiety. This research, as well as our own extensive assessments of New York City independent schools, has helped us identify the following risk factors:

Academics and Competition

Independent and private schools present a highly competitive academic and social environment unparalleled in other populations. Research shows that the pressures in affluent school communities can cause students to value external indicators of success over their own internal needs and development. As a result, students may not be emotionally prepared for their next level of schooling, and may also have challenges with managing stress and utilizing healthy coping skills.

Social Norms

Research demonstrates that independent school students face unique challenges regarding expectations about masculinity and femininity, racial identity, socio-economic status, and other social identifiers. These messages teach students about what types of people and behaviors are seen as valued within their community, and can have a profound influence on students’ self-esteem, relationships and overall connection to school.  Our work helps students resist the peer pressures associated with these dynamics and supports schools in creating inclusive and empowering environments.

Developmental Factors

Adolescence is a time of unique struggle.  And growing up in New York City brings its own mix of challenges to negotiate and experiences to understand.  We offer programming that is tailored to particular stages of adolescence and addresses the specific needs of young people growing up in New York City.

Our comprehensive assessment process is tailored to not only filling in the research gaps surrounding this population, but honing in on the needs of these students on a school-by-school basis.

Our Method

Strategic Prevention

Recent research demonstrates that traditional prevention methods rooted in cautionary tales and “scare tactics” are unsuccessful with teens, and in many cases have been shown to increase the likelihood of high-risk behaviors.  Instead, programs that understand and involve the larger community while focusing on specific skills result in better outcomes for adolescents and young adults.

At Hallways, we use an evidence-based Strategic Prevention framework to provide the most relevant and impactful programming for each school community. Our method consists of five phases and gives schools a comprehensive understanding of the key protective and risk factors that students face, as well as specific recommendations for how to best address needs and promote strengths.  Rooted in each step of the process is a focus on how various social dynamics, including identity, socioeconomic status, race, culture and gender, impact the school community.

Phase I: The Assessment

The first phase of our Strategic Prevention Framework involves a multi-method assessment of the developmental strengths and challenges of the students.  Included in this assessment are:

  • An anonymous online student survey that focuses on determining key risk and protective factors
  • Interviews with key stakeholders at the school (generally school counselors, deans, advisors, or other faculty members)
  • Observations of the students (including both structured and unstructured school times)

All parts of the assessment focus on evaluating how students experience 34 key protective factors, based upon a framework rooted in fifty years of scientific inquiry into risk-taking and resiliency factors, as well as normal developmental processes.  Hallways takes this framework and adapts it to meet the particular needs of the NYC Independent School students.  Examples  of these measures include: perfectionism, resistance skills, self-esteem, empathy, and decision making.
Research has found that youth with many protective factors are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors and more likely to engage in healthy behaviors.  Therefore, it is critical for school communities to understand the realities of students and develop strategies for responding to concerning dynamics, pressures and norms.

Phase II: Findings and Recommendations

The Hallways team analyzes the data gathered during the assessment phase to find themes that emerge across different groups (students, faculty/staff, observations) and types of data.  Based on the findings, the Hallways team recommends programming that will target the student needs, which begins with student workshops, but may also include additional prevention efforts, such as faculty trainings, parent talks, or advisory support.  

See Resources below for real-world examples of analysis and recommendations from our assessment process.

Phase III: Feedback

The Hallways team presents a report, that includes the assessment findings and recommendations to the designated personnel at the school. We work closely with the school staff to put together a custom plan based on our findings.

Phase IV: Implementation and Capacity Building

Our programming most often includes student workshops and may also include other supporting components, like faculty trainings, policy consultation with school administration, advisory program support and parent presentations.  The types and levels of intervention depend on the findings from the assessment.

See Resources below for real-world examples of analysis and recommendations from our assessment process.

Phase V: Closing the Loop

After the prevention and wellness programming has been completed, the Hallways team conducts a meeting to close the loop with the school. Often this involves readministering the anonymous student surveys in order to see if there are noticeable gains in the areas of intervention. The Hallways staff then meets with the school to assess the programming.



8th Grade Assessment Findings - School A - SAMPLE