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Evidence of City Year's impact

We conduct research and evaluation for continuous learning and improvement, to build evidence of impact, and to inform systemic change.

We seek to understand

how to create learning environments and educational systems that enable all students to reach their full potential by exploring our outcomes on multiple levels, from our impact on systems, schools and students to the effectiveness of our practices to our impact on our AmeriCorps members and alumni and the communities we serve.

Our research and learning agenda is designed to make a meaningful contribution to conversations about how to meet the needs of all students and the practitioners who support their learning and growth.

The studies and reports highlighted below are produced by independent research organizations and researchers. Collectively, they cover a wide range of impact and implementation of City Year’s holistic services, demonstrate evidence of City Year’s impact in areas like supporting school-wide gains, improving students’ social-emotional skills and reducing early warning indicators, such as chronic absenteeism, and shed light on how to accelerate student success in systemically under-resourced schools.

From downward spiral to virtuous cycle: City Year’s breakthrough innovation in education
Bill Copeland and Michael E. Raynor, Deloitte LLP (2018)

In a white paper, Deloitte's Bill Copeland and Michael E. Raynor set out to explore whether City Year’s success is replicable and how constraints might affect the integrity and effectiveness of its model. This paper, "From downward spiral to virtuous cycle: City Year's breakthrough innovation in education" presents City Year as a leading education innovation and uses a business innovation lens to examine its value and growth potential of City Year’s services.


Key findings:

  • Deloitte’s analysis found that City Year is breaking constraints on four dimensions of performance: consistency, customization, continuity and cost, allowing City Year to be highly effective in a wide range of settings.
Implementation and impact of City Year within the Chicago context
Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago (2017)

Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago documented and evaluated the implementation of the City Year model—including identification of effective elements and areas for improvement. Specifically, the study was designed to describe the impact of the core elements of City Year model on academic, attendance, and behavioral outcomes of students attending City Year schools in Chicago.


Key findings:

  • Participation in City Year Chicago significantly contributes to student outcomes.
  • High school students receiving targeted City Year supports attended more than one additional week of school than their peers (on average 5.6 more days of school) and increased on average half of a grade in math (C to C+).
Addressing early warning indicators: interim impact findings from the investing in innovation (i3) evaluation of Diplomas Now
MDCR (2016)

This most recent report demonstrated that schools with Diplomas Now partners saw a positive, statistically significant impact on the percentage of sixth and ninth graders exhibiting no early warning indicators as compared to similar schools without Diplomas Now.


In 2010, Diplomas Now received a $30 million Investing in Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education to implement the program in schools across the country. The grant also supports one of the largest randomized control studies ever conducted of a secondary school model—schools from 11 large urban districts—led by MDRC. The PepsiCo Foundation, Diplomas Now’s founding private sector investor, provided $11 million to support the study.

The first two reports from the evaluation, published in 2014 and 2015, focus on the implementation of the Diplomas Now model. MDRC’s third and most recent report, “Addressing Early Warning Indicators,” explores the early impacts of the Diplomas Now model on student and school outcomes.

Key findings:

  • Schools with Diplomas Now partners achieved a positive, statistically significant impact on the percentage of sixth and ninth graders exhibiting no early warning indicators as compared to similar schools without Diplomas Now.
  • The study also found statistically significant impact on reducing chronic absenteeism—defined as missing more than 10 percent of school days in a single academic year—in middle schools.
  • Students at Diplomas Now schools reported participating in more academically focused afterschool activities, and more reported having a positive relationship with an adult at school who is not a teacher, than their peers in the comparison schools.
  • Other contrasts include differentiated use of evidence-based practices in schools implementing the model. For teachers, increased frequency of: using data to drive instruction and target struggling students, teacher collaboration, support from instructional coaches. For students, increased frequency of: coordinated academic and non-academic services, Math/English academic help and in-class behavioral support.

Download the study overview
Download the analysis and implications report
Download the executive summary

Analysis of the impacts of City Year’s Whole School Whole Child model on partner schools’ performance
Policy Studies Associates (2015)

Policy Studies Associates examined the impact of City Year’s Whole School Whole Child services on City Year’s partner schools’ performance in comparison to similar schools without City Year, analyzing data from approximately 600 schools in 22 cities. The study used publicly available data that local education agencies (LEAs), State and U.S. Departments of Education use to assess school performance.


Key findings:

  • Schools that partner with City Year were two times more likely to improve proficiency rates in English Language Arts and up to three times more likely to improve proficiency rates in math than schools that did not partner with City Year.
  • Schools that partnered with City Year gained the equivalent of approximately one month of additional math and English Language Arts learning compared with non-City Year schools.

Download the study overview

Analysis of the after school program component of City Year Los Angeles’s Whole School Whole Child model
Policy Studies Associates, Los Angeles (2014)

This report focuses on City Year Los Angeles’s afterschool programming (ASP), investigating the academic and socio-emotional outcomes associated with students’ participation in ASP, both with and without intensive in-school support.


Key findings:

  • Students who attended afterschool programming for more than 80 hours were, on average, approximately two to three times more likely to increase their English Language Arts grades in the 2013-14 school year than students who did not.
  • Students attending more than 80 hours of afterschool programming also scored significantly higher on the end of year Skills Report Card.
  • Middle school students who participated in City Year Los Angeles’s in-school and afterschool interventions were, on average, 1.8 times more likely to maintain an A or B or to improve their math grade.
The City Year experience: putting alumni on the path to lifelong civic engagement
Policy Studies Associates (2007)

Policy Studies Associates conducted three interlocking studies designed to assess City Year’s impact on alumni at various intervals of time after the completion of a year of full-time community service with City Year. Together, these studies assess the ways in which alumni exhibit civic engagement and amass social capital following their participation in City Year.


Key findings:

  • City Year alumni excelled on every measure of civic engagement, had greater social capital and were more likely to develop lasting relationships with people from different backgrounds, as compared to similar service-minded peers.
  • City Year alumni are 45% more likely to be civically engaged or belong to a community organization.

Research in progress

City Year has a number of studies in progress, including one with American Institutes for Research and MDRC who are collaborating to conduct an Institute of Education Sciences (IES)-funded evaluation of Whole School Whole Child. City Year is looking forward to learning from the results as we continuously seek to improve our practices.

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