Charlotte-area edtech companies combine forces for teen social-emotional learning


Social-emotional learning has been a primary concern among high school educators across the country this year. With many districts fully or partially learning from home since March, there is uncertainty about how teen students are handling the stressors of the pandemic. To add, there are limited digital tools to aid schools in the measurement and growth of teen social-emotional skills. To meet this growing need, a new pilot program between Aperture Education and Ascend, two local education companies, is working to change that.

Aperture Education, based in Fort Mill, S.C., produces the education industry’s most well-regarded social-emotional learning assessment, the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment, commonly known as the DESSA. Cited in over 100 research publications, the DESSA is used by districts and out-of-school-time organizations around the continent to measure student social-emotional competence in areas such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Ascend, based in Charlotte, N.C., creates gamified goal-setting software for schools and after school programs. Its unique enterprise platform serves all stakeholders in a student’s personal growth: program administration, student mentors and advocates, and the students themselves. Schools and after-school programs use Ascend to record group and individual student goals to improve data for program management, grants, and donors. The platform also provides a mechanism for students to connect with mentors and other advocates, giving an opportunity for students to develop agency, empowerment, and social skills.

The combined platform gives students the ability to virtually take the DESSA assessment to learn more about their personal social-emotional strengths and growth opportunities. Then, students can set goals in any area of their lives that strengthen their social-emotional growth. Aperture, Ascend, and their district and after-school partners anticipate that this solution will teach students agency, provide direction for personalized learning plans, and give program administration better student voice data. With highly reliable, data-driven insights, they can make better decisions around social-emotional learning plans for students.

The pilot program includes 10 district and after-school programs across the country. Aperture and Ascend will be using the feedback gained from the pilot program to continue building a product that can accurately assess student social-emotional competence and provide a tool for students to drive their own personal growth, with the aid of their mentors and advocates. So whether socially distanced or closer together, students can feel educated, empowered, and supported in their social-emotional growth.


About Ascend

Ascend is a student empowerment platform that enables schools and youth organizations to track student goals. Through Ascend’s gamified goal-setting app, students create goals and build social capital, and administrators easily report on outcomes. Ascend is proud to be a minority and woman-owned business and supports schools and after school programs in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and beyond. Visit to learn more.