Helping children and young adults develop their talents and strengths also helps them contribute to their communities in the future. Yet systemic inequities that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income households mean too many young people do not have such supportive learning environments. These inequities lead to disparities in educational, health-related, and economic outcomes — including high school graduation rates.
City Year partners with public schools with the goal of preparing students with the skills and mindsets they need to thrive and contribute to their communities. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members serve in schools full time to help students engage in their learning fully and stay on track to graduation. AmeriCorps members offer personalized support to students who need it most, and help to create a safe and supportive school climate where students can feel capable of and committed to their academic goals.
City Year has developed and widely implemented its Whole School Whole Child (WSWC) services. WSWC includes academic, social, and emotional services that are aimed at helping students develop the skills they need to navigate and complete high school. It has two tiers of services:
- Universal (Tier 1) services are provided to all students in the school. They include after-school programs and school-wide events that recognize positive behavior and student success. They also include in-classroom support for selected English language arts and math teachers.
- Targeted (Tier 2) services are provided to students who are at increased risk of not graduating based on early warning indicators related to attendance, behavior, and course performance in English language arts or math. Tier 2 services include tutoring in English language arts and math, social and emotional development and behavior support, and attendance coaching.
The American Institutes for Research (AIR) and MDRC are conducting an evaluation of WSWC services in 22 middle schools in five large urban school districts. The evaluation is focusing on middle school because it is a pivotal time when students form their identities and learn the foundational academic, social, and emotional skills that they need to succeed in high school and as adults. Therefore, building evidence on what works for this age group is an important pathway for improving graduation rates.
The evaluation includes two impact studies. The first study explores the effect of the WSWC model (Tier 1 and Tier 2 services) for all students, and the second study attempts to isolate the effect of Tier 2 services for students who are identified as being at heightened risk of dropping out of school. The evaluation also includes an implementation study and a cost study. The five-year evaluation began in fall 2017 and will be completed by the end of 2022. The research reported described here is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education, through grant R305A170227 to AIR. The opinions expressed are those of the study team and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.