In addition to our work to support students and schools while nurturing 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.
This work has gained momentum because of an increased awareness of long-standing inequities and injustices exacerbated and exposed by COVID-19.
Through national education policy and practice coalitions, convenings and thought leadership opportunities, City Year also works with partners to share insights from our experience in national service and supporting students in systemically under-resourced schools.
Advancing the role of student success coaches to support pandemic recovery
The pandemic not only exposed long-standing, systemic inequities in education—it also underscored that meeting students’ social and emotional needs is a “must have,” not a “nice to have,” for students to be able to learn.
In their role as “student success coaches,” City Year AmeriCorps members partner with teachers and school leaders to help students build on their strengths and develop the skills they need to thrive in school and in life. Some of the foundational elements of student success coaching include: cultivating strong, positive relationships with students; weaving together academic, social and emotional skill-building; and enhancing belonging and engagement to help create a welcoming learning environment.
While City Year cannot serve in every school, many more schools could benefit from having student success coaching in their schools and communities, particularly as schools and districts seek to meet the needs of students returning to in-person learning full time. Expanding access to student success coaches would help address near-term needs for student support to address the impacts of the pandemic and provide a longer-term foundation for creating more equitable learning conditions for millions of students and achieving positive educational, economic and social outcomes that benefit all of us.
Voices for National Service & the CORPS Act
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 and 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.
Since Voices for National Service was established, the federal investment in AmeriCorps State and National—the grants program that supports organizations like City Year—has increased by more than 147% from $174 million in fiscal year 2003 to $429 million in fiscal year 2020. Voices for National Service commissioned economists in 2020 to conduct a cost-benefit study of national service that confirmed that every $1 that Congress invests in AmeriCorps returns over $17 to society, program members and the government.
In 2020, Voices for National Service worked with Congress to pass legislation to ensure all AmeriCorps member benefits were preserved and grantees could fully utilize awarded funds, despite interruptions in service delivery across the country. Voices for National Service also worked closely with Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) to help shape and advance S. 3964, the Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act, bipartisan legislation to dramatically expand national service to aid COVID-19 response and recovery, strengthen programs’ efforts on diversity and equity, and increase AmeriCorps member living allowances.
Coalition to support the Corps for Student Success
City Year is working with the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, The COVID Collaborative, and other partners to build a broad and diverse coalition in support of the Corps for Student Success, an organizing framework of evidence-based, locally driven student supports that communities can implement to address both short-term and long-term educational needs.
The Corps for Student Success offers a range of additional student supports for districts and schools to consider—including tutors, student success coaches, mentors, college and career advisors, and wraparound support coordinators—to provide the right support to the right students.
Partnerships to advance personalized learning and innovation
City Year works closely with school partners to evolve whole school learning models, with a focus on personalized learning for both students and staff. In recent years, City Year has advanced new learning and educator training models with our network of partners 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 other nonprofit organizations focused on universal design, including online nano-courses and educator micro-credentials centered on student on-track indicator tracking and 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.
- Multi-school efforts to rethink holistic school accountability frameworks through the development of a pilot “total school wellness dashboard” that allows schools to more continuously and holistically respond to community needs.
- Sharing our findings at national conferences and convenings and through practitioner guides that provide tools for practitioners and the field.