We created Millennium.org to fill a distressing gap that we see in our society and reflected in our education system. For decades, developmental science has stressed the importance of an individual’s character, self-awareness and social-emotional skill set to their future success and well-being. Over those same years, however, our system of education has moved in the opposite direction - focusing on an increasingly narrow set of academic subjects and tests. Simply put - our educational system is currently out of balance in addressing the requirements for whole-student development.
1. Teachers Define SEL as "the Missing Piece"*
- 87% - believe SEL would increase student workforce readiness and life success
- 80% - believe SEL provides a major benefit to students’ ability to graduate
- 77% - believe SEL development in school would improve academic success
- 75% - believe SEL training reduces bullying and improves behavioral issues
- 82% - want more SEL training each year
- only 23% - receive some form of in-service SEL training
2. Teachers at High-Poverty Schools are Especially Convinced SEL Could Address Their Largest School Problems*
- 76% - Students’ lack of interest in learning
- 67% - Poor student behavior in class
- 47% - Bullying
3. U.S Employers Say Students do not have the SEL Skills Required for the Real World*
- 70% - of high school graduates are considered deficient in work ethic
- 70% - are deficient in critical thinking and problem solving skills
- 40% - of US employers report shortage in qualified talent (ManpowerGroup)
*source: "The Missing Piece: A National Teacher Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools"; A report for CASEL 2014
The Cost of Not Teaching Social Emotional Learning in Schools
We shouldn’t be surprised that there is a cost for this dissonance between what we know is good for students and their actual experience in schools - a cost both on the students and on society as a whole.
- Increased mental health issues in young adults (There's a Startling Increase in Major Depression Among Teens in the U.S., Time Magazine, Nov. 2016; citing Ramin Mojtabai, Mark Olfson, Beth Han (2016). “National Trends in the Prevalence and Treatment of Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults,” published in Pediatrics)
- Teachers report among the highest levels of occupational stress leading to “burn-out,” and increased turnover, which negatively impacts student academic performance (Greenberg, M. T., Brown J. L., Abenavoli, R.M. (2016). “Teacher Stress and Health: Effects on Teachers, Students, and Schools.” Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania State University)
- A growing skills gap with employers unable to hire qualified employees with the judgment and soft-skills needed to succeed in today’s workforce (Why Social and Emotional Learning and Employability Skills Should Be Prioritized in Education, Committee for Children and CASEL 2016)
By introducing a consistent structure and process for whole student development within the existing schedules of all secondary schools, Millennium seeks to develop a generation of students equipped with the tools they need to face the broader challenges of a changing world.
Millennium was founded to support this vision for education by impacting three key areas of need:
1. Teacher Stress Management & Wellbeing - Teaching is one of the most stressful occupations, often linked to its social-emotional demands, and lack of training, support, and peer collaboration.
2. SEL Professional Development – 4 of 5 teachers want more support to address students’ social and emotional development, and 4 of 5 teacher preparation programs are considered “weak”.
3. Whole-Student Development – We define education for the 21st century as education for the whole child, including cultivating cognitive, social, emotional, creative and spiritual domains.
Translating Developmental Research into Practice
Millennium.org convenes adolescent educators and university researchers together in real classroom settings to translate our emerging knowledge of developmental science into practical instructional tools and training for teachers. The result is a living laboratory environment to apply, assess, and adapt techniques for transforming student advisory groups into dynamic learning circles. Our work is grounded in research, and the fundamental belief that developing the whole child begins with supporting the whole teacher. We provide professional development and coaching along with the tools and resources that teachers need to cultivate their own SEL skills in order to better support their students.
We understand the pressure that teachers face each day, and that they can't make this kind of personal impact through traditional instructional delivery. So, we've developed the Millennium Forum model: structured, peer-to-peer circles that meet weekly for up to an hour. Trained faculty moderate the circles through a process that enables dialogue, allows space for self-discovery, practices healthy conflict resolution, and introduces other social-emotional development skills.
Chris and Jeff were first introduced by close friend Madeline Levine in 2013, who recognized their shared passion for human-centered education. Over the next two years, Chris and Jeff traveled across the US and abroad to visit dozens of innovative schools, universities and teacher education centers. They came to believe that while there existed significant valuable research in adolescent neuroscience and developmental psychology, little of it was being effectively integrated into the educational system. They decided to focus on the middle school years as both the period most formative in individual identity formation, and the least served by current educational models. Millennium was born in 2014 as a research and development initiative whose central aim was to translate leading developmental science into practical tools and training that could be shared broadly to transform the middle school experience.
Millennium's lab school opened in Fall 2016, and continues to grow into a full 6-8th grade middle school. The school's student advisory program, Forum, quickly established itself as the heart of the culture, and the most efficient vehicle for introducing human-centered teaching techniques.
The launch of Millennium.org in 2017 marks the next step of our evolution - formalizing new research partnerships, expanding the lab environment to local public school partners, and establishing an integrated model for SEL professional development.
Who We Are
Millennium.org is fortunate to work with a diverse community of allies and advisors from academia, education, and business to support its mission of advancing a conscious worldview through human-centered education. While each advisor brings his and her unique expertise to our effort, together they share a commitment to promoting young adult success through social and emotional development. We would like to thank them all for their continued time, wisdom and support.
Chris Balme, Co-Founder & Head of millennium School
Chris is an educator and social entrepreneur, passionate about creating organizations that help students reach their full potential. Previously, Chris was Co-Founder and CEO of Spark, a national non-profit he built over 10 years to improve student success in middle and high school. Spark placed students in apprenticeship programs in organizations ranging from Google to city government, and earned widespread recognition for its ability to motivate students to succeed in school and beyond. Chris has received the Ashoka Fellowship, the Draper Richards Fellowship for social entrepreneurship, as well as the Bay Area Jefferson Award for Public Service. Chris earned degrees in Psychology and Business from the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton, and has taught with Breakthrough Collaborative and in the Philadelphia public schools.
Jeff Snipes, Co-Founder & Chairman
Jeff leads the strategic vision, research partnerships and professional development programs of Millennium.org. He also guides the Forum and “Life, Learning & Leadership” programs at Millennium School. Jeff is an advisor and board member to Mindful Schools, Education Superhighway, and select San Francisco Public Schools. Over the past five years he has helped design and facilitate adult leadership forums for YPO (Young Presidents Organization), the Tugboat Institute, and Circl.es.
Previously Jeff spent 16 years leading one of the largest U.S. corporate leadership development companies (now KornFerry). He served as CEO for 12 years, building an online/blended learning platform with a faculty that included Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, and Tom Peters among others. Jeff was named a “Top 25 US Leadership Advisor” and “CEO of the Year” by the American Business Association. Along the way, Jeff served on the board of Stanford's Challenge Success as well as Board President at Marin Montessori School, where he helped launch a model land-based junior high program. That experience, along with parenting his own three children, inspired him to spend the second half of his career helping others develop a broader, more conscious definition of success.
advisors and Research partners
CASEL, Healthy Minds Innovations, and George Lucas Education Foundation Boards of Directors
Commissioner, US Technology & Innovation; Founding CTO, Pixar
Mark T. Greenberg
Professor of Human Development & Psychology, Penn State
Assoc. Professor of Education, Center for Advanced Study of Teaching & Learning, UVA
Asst Professor of Psychology, Columbia; CASEL Sr. Program Advisor; Director, Inner Resilience Program
Psychologist with focus on Adolescence & Family Systems; NYT Best-selling Author
Educational Consultant, McClure, Mallory, Baron & Ross
Founder & CEO, Education Superhighway, SF Visionary of the Year 2015
Professor of Psychology & Education, Columbia; Founder, Spirituality Mind Body Institute
Asst Professor, Human Early Learning Partnership, University of British Columbia
Sr. Lecturer, Stanford Graduate School of Education; Co-Founder of Challenge Success
CEO GSV Acceleration LLC; Past Board Chicago Public Schools, Common Ground, Teach for America
Professor of Caring & Compassion, Human Development & Family Studies, Penn State
Professor of Human Development, Learning & Culture, University of British Columbia; CASEL Board
Asst Professor of Neurology, UCSF; Education Director, Neuroscape; Founder, Institute for Applied Neuroscience
Professor of Integral and Transpersonal Psychology, School of Consciousness & Transformation, CIIS
CEO, Strategic Growth Partners; Past CEO of Aspire Public Schools and Principal at New Schools Ventures