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Blog Dec 9, 2020

Why Assessing Well-Being is Important in Schools: Introducing The Well-Being Index


By Samantha Deliso, Dawn Foreman, M.Ed.Tami Hill-Washington, Ed.M., and Supraja Narayanaswamy

Understanding Well-Being Through A Whole-Child Lens

As educators, we know that students learn better when they feel good. Often, we are told the best way to support student well-being is by looking for signs that a student is not feeling or functioning well and responding to those needs. This is especially relevant this year, as persistent disruptions to learning, systemic racial oppression and the collective trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the well-being of so many young people, especially Black and Brown students whose communities have been disproportionally impacted by these conditions. But defining well-being only as the absence of illness misses an important point: Our students are so much more than their most critical needs. If we collect data to label and track students, we risk stigmatizing them and making problematic decisions without accounting for the incredible strengths, characteristics and values they bring into our classrooms. We also risk overlooking another important insightstudents feel and function differently depending on their context (i.e., the environments, relationships and experiences in their daily lives), and not all responses may be directly noticeable to a classroom teacher. 

We can look at student well-being more broadly and proactively through a whole-child lens – one that spans across psychological, social, physical and emotional domains to identify student needs that are not always visible on the surface. When schools take students’ individual contexts into account and create experiences that are aligned to their strengths, they enable them to learn, grow and thrive on their own unique pathways. But if a student’s experiences are dynamic and variable, how can educators capture that information to support them in a timely, personalized way?  


Turnaround for Children has developed a free new tool to help educators hear directly, quickly, and frequently from studentsThe Well-Being Index. The Well-Being Index is a brief self-assessment designed to capture a holistic view of each student’s sense of their own physical, emotional and social health. Consisting of simple, positively-worded statements, this self-assessment measures how a young person is feeling and functioning through an assets-based lens, contributing to a proactive and integrated approach to support that does not stigmatize students.  

Benefits of the Well-Being Index

With the needs of both students and educators in mind, the Well-Being Index:  

  • Takes an assets-based lens to well-being that encourages educators to understand and learn more about their students, rather than look for what is wrong with them 
  • Recognizes educators as the experts of their own context, providing suggested administration guidance, reflection prompts and next steps without prescribing rigid solutions 
  • Includes two developmentally-appropriate versions – a shorter version for grades 3-5 and a more robust one for grades 6-12 
  • Can be administered as frequently as desired to capture a dynamic picture of a student’s well-being, unlike most traditional pre-post assessments  

“This tool can encourage my peers to reflect on their well-being without much pressure.”  —High School Student

Using this tool prompts educators to support students in understanding and protecting their own well-being, rather than leaving educators to make assumptions about students based solely on observable actions or life circumstances. In a recent study supported by Character Lab and facilitated through the Character Lab Research Network, a consortium of schools across the country working collaboratively with scientists to advance scientific insights that help kids thrive, a high school student was asked about the purpose of the Well-Being Index. They responded: To see how students’ health is and how the educational system can be beneficial instead of detrimental to that.” As a member of a school community that is mostly Black and Brown, the student added: “It is especially relevant since in low-income or Black and Brown areas, well-being or mental health is not a priority. This tool can encourage my peers to reflect on their well-being without much pressure.” This quote speaks to the purpose of the Well-Being Index – namely, to use data as guideposts for understanding and learning more about the whole child, thereby reflecting on how the system can benefit students instead of contributing to more inequities and racial disparities. 

Integrates With Other Resources

The Well-Being Index is one way to learn more about our students and one step toward creating conditions that enable all students to thrive. It can either function as a standalone tool or be integrated with other resources. For example, Turnaround’s Tiered Supports tools help educators build an adaptive, responsive continuum of supports for students. To provide differentiated supports that work toward holistic (i.e., social, emotional, and academic, among others) outcomes for each student, educators must first be able to deeply understand students, their strengths, and their needs. Turnaround’s Well-Being Index can be used to support educators in adopting this lens – in turn helping them create more effective supports that nurture each student’s learning and development.

Get Free Access to the Well-Being Index Now!

Sign up for free download access to both versions of the Well-Being Index, the scoring sheets and the educator’s guide from Turnaround here. We are excited to hear about how you use the Well-Being Index in your classrooms! Share your learnings with our community on social using the hashtag #wellbeingindex 

Learn more about how the Well-Being Index was initially developed and how it’s currently being used in schools on the 180 Podcast. Listen to parts 1 and 2.


Turnaround’s Well-Being Index is currently undergoing a process of validity and reliability testing. For more information on the psychometric properties of the measurement tool, please reach out to