At a glance
90% of students in City Year partner schools are students of color
90% are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch
Partnering with students and schools
Diverse, trained teams of AmeriCorps members serve full time in schools as student success coaches —tutoring students one-on-one or in small groups, helping students stay focused in class, organizing schoolwide events and running afterschool programs. AmeriCorps members work alongside teachers to help students build on their strengths and cultivate social, emotional and academic skills, from mastering fractions to learning to work in teams.
The relationships that AmeriCorps members build with students are at the center of our Whole School, Whole Child approach. Through their work with students, City Year AmeriCorps members help students develop an understanding of who they are, a sense of agency to make a difference, and critical skills that set them on a path of lifelong learning.
Whole child learning
City Year contributes to a more joyful, just and equitable vision of public schools as places of academic, social and emotional learning, exploration and risk taking, belonging and connection; where adults meet students where they are with strengths-based strategies and data; and where all students have access to positive relationships and personalized learning environments that encourage them to thrive as creative thinkers and doers, practice lifelong learning skills, and persevere through challenges.
Research shows that positive school environments lead to better student outcomes, and that students stay in school, are more engaged and report that they perform better academically when they feel connected to at least one adult in school, according to the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute.
New research validates City Year’s holistic services in schools
A May 2020 study by the Everyone Graduates Center (EGC) at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education provides strong evidence that City Year’s holistic approach to providing school-based interventions is successful in advancing student social, emotional and academic outcomes in public schools, particularly schools that predominantly serve students of color and students from low-income families.
Key findings of the study include:
- There is a statistically significant, consistent relationship between student social-emotional skills and academic outcomes—moving up one level in social-emotional skills is like gaining an entire school year of achievement growth in math or English for students in grades 3-10.
- Students who received support from City Year AmeriCorps members demonstrated improved social-emotional and academic outcomes.
- Greater impact is seen when social-emotional skills are integrated into academic interventions, such as incorporating goal-directed behavior while building math and English language arts skills.
Ensuring more students are on track to high school graduation
City Year AmeriCorps members work closely with students who exhibit one or more “early warning indicators” in attendance, behavior and course performance. Focusing on these research-based indicators helps ensure that students will reach 10th grade on time and on track—making students three times more likely to graduate from high school.
Nationwide, 8 million students are chronically absent, defined as missing at least 10% of school per year, or the equivalent of a month of school.
Students coached by City Year improved their attendance by at least 2 percentage points, which translates to an additional 3.5 days in school, or more than 5,700 collective additional days of instruction.
- 87% of partner teachers agree that City Year AmeriCorps members help to improve student academic performance.2
- A 2015 study by Policy Studies Associates in 600 schools in 22 school districts showed that City Year partner elementary schools – as compared with similar non-City Year schools – were two times more likely to improve on state English assessments and up to three times more likely to improve on math proficiency rates.
Elevating student voice and agency to shape the learning experience
Each student experiences their school environment differently. Learning happens best when adults meet the student where they are. To help understand and elevate the student perspective City Year uses the Holistic Student Assessment (HSA), a student self-reflection tool. Students reflect on their social and emotional strengths, their sense of belonging in school and engagement in their learning, and areas they want to improve. AmeriCorps members can use this student feedback to adjust their practice and can review these student perspectives with teachers and other school staff to help inform decisions and practices at the school. When adults have a clearer picture of their students as individuals, they can then adapt their strategies to build a supportive learning environment.
In 2018-2019, as part of the second year of a pilot in Columbus, Ohio in partnership with Search Institute, more than 400 students who received coaching and support from City Year AmeriCorps members reported statistically significant positive changes in learning engagement and academic motivation measures, according to the HSA.
This includes three out of four students reporting growth in reflection, critical thinking, interest in their own learning and higher levels of academic motivation and action orientation—key indicators of positive development and success.
City Year has expanded this work to seven more cities, as we continue to learn how to influence and support positive learning environments designed to meet student needs.
Creating learning networks to build community, partnership and foster continuous improvement
With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, City Year convenes a growing network of schools, called our Network for School Improvement (NSI), to create the time and space for educators to exchange and elevate promising change ideas that boost student outcomes and advance shared goals.
Results from the NSI pilot in Milwaukee, which focused on a shared aim of improving how schools attend to the social and emotional needs of their students so they can best engage in learning include:
- School improvements that significantly reduced educator reporting of behavioral incidents in four of the five initial pilot schools, including a 30% reduction at one school.
- School improvements that reduced educator use of punitive disciplinary practices, like suspensions, in three of the five pilot schools.
City Year plans to expand its NSI work and other collaborative networks, including our District Learning Network, which brings together district leaders across City Year’s partner communities to work together on shared challenges.
1 Spring 2019 principal survey, n=407
2Spring 2019 City Year partner teacher survey, n= 1,759