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Driving systemic change

In addition to our work to support students and schools while developing our AmeriCorps members as leaders, City Year seeks to advance educational equity by contributing to systems-level changes in policies and practice that address the root causes of inequitable educational outcomes in the districts we serve—for example how lack of access to educational opportunities leads to differences in graduation rates. City Year is also increasingly engaging in national education policy and practice coalitions, convenings and thought leadership opportunities to share insights from our experience in national service and supporting students in systemically under-resourced schools.

Partnerships to advance personalized learning and innovation

Building on our history of creating spaces for personalized learning with the students we serve, City Year has advanced and innovated with our network of partners, including through:

  • Development of a competency-based, integrated social-emotional and academic development learning model with a design partner school in Denver, Colorado.
  • Creation of personalized learning tools for adults in partnership with nonprofit organizations focused on universal design, including microcredentials that can be used for teacher training and holistic development, and on-track indicator intervention.
  • Design and implementation of a City Year teacher residency program that focuses on whole-child development in partnership with major teacher training programs across the country.
  • Sharing our findings at national conferences and convenings that focus on personalized learning, including the Aurora Institute (formerly known as iNACOL) and through practitioner guides that provide tools for practitioners and the field.

Advancing the role of student success coaches

Student success coaches (SSCs) are AmeriCorps members who serve full time in diverse teams in schools designated by federal education law as high-need and/or low-performing. SCCs provide near-peer, research-based supports to students and supplemental capacity in classrooms. They also collaborate with teachers to personalize learning environments, while developing skills they need for civic and workforce success after their year of service.

City Year AmeriCorps members serve as SSCs in our partner schools. In a recently released guide for practitioners and policymakers sharing what City Year is learning about the power of integrating social, emotional and academic development in public schools, we include a policy recommendation to expand opportunities for AmeriCorps members to serve as SSCs in systemically under-resourced schools. SSCs can support educators in helping to foster learning environments in which students can develop and strengthen social, emotional and academic skills and mindsets that are important in school and in life.

While City Year cannot serve in every school, many more schools could benefit from having SSCs in their schools and communities. Expanding access to SSCs would be a major step toward creating more equitable learning conditions for millions of students and achieving positive educational, economic and social outcomes that benefit all of us.

What City Year is learning about the power of integrating social, emotional and academic development in public schools: A guide for practitioners and policymakers

The purpose of this guide is to provide practitioners and policymakers with practices, tools and recommendations for integrating social, emotional and academic approaches to support improved student and school outcomes. Through this guide, City Year hopes to share some lessons learned from more than a decade of partnering with educators, schools and communities to support student success in schools that serve communities affected by systemic inequities, along with research and evaluation of our work—including a recent study conducted by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University on City Year’s approach to strengthening students’ social, emotional and academic development.


Engaging in policy and practice coalitions

The Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEAD Commission)

The SEAD Commission was created to engage and energize communities in re-envisioning learning to encompass its social, emotional, and cognitive dimensions so that all children can succeed in school, careers and life. The commission’s members were leaders from education, research, policy, business and the military, and the full team included a Council of Distinguished Scientists, a Council of Distinguished Educators (including City Year CEO Jim Balfanz), a Youth Commission, a Parent Advisory Panel, a Partners Collaborative, and a Funders Collaborative.

In January 2019, the commission released its final report, “From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope,” and accompanying recommendations. The report draws on input from more than 200 scientists, youth and parent groups, educators and policymakers, and seeks to accelerate and strengthen efforts to support the whole learner in local communities through recommendations for researchers, educators and policymakers.

The Science of Learning & Development (SoLD) Alliance

The SoLD Alliance is a partnership of leaders and organizations that aims to make the science of learning and development a deeply understood, widely held, and actionable key driver of equity and excellence in education systems. The alliance wants to ensure that all young people, no matter who or where they are, benefit from effective, high-quality, continuously improving learning environments that are designed to unleash and realize everyone’s potential.

As a member of the SoLD Alliance National Advisory Committee, which regularly convenes to provide guidance to the SoLD Alliance, City Year is part of a growing movement working towards systems change that is essential to making emerging lessons from the science of learning and development deeply understood, widely held, and actionable among education field leaders and the programs, organizations, and systems they lead.

Voices for National Service

Voices for National Service is a coalition of national, state and local service organizations working together to build bipartisan support for national service, develop policies to expand and strengthen service opportunities for all Americans and ensure a robust federal investment in the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). City Year serves as the organizational operational host for Voices for National Service, and the coalition’s work is guided by a Steering Committee of the leaders of more than 27 national service organizations and state service commissions.

In 2019, the group helped defeat a third White House effort to eliminate CNCS, which leads service and volunteering efforts including AmeriCorps, and also helped increase its federal funding.

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