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Evidence of City Year's impact

We seek to accelerate organizational progress and continuous improvement by leading an equity-based approach to research and evaluation that informs practice improvements, builds our evidence of impact, and advances systemic change.

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The goal of this work is to help ensure that City Year—and the broader educational community—can more effectively support students and adults who work in schools, from AmeriCorps members to teachers.

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An equity-based approach to research means that research should begin from a place of simultaneously considering those being researched, community organizations, researchers and funders. Those involved in the research design must recognize unintended bias to arrive at an authentic trust that does the most good for those being researched. (Source: Chicago Beyond 2019).

Through our research and evaluation work, we aim to understand how to create learning environments and educational systems that accelerate educational equity by enabling all students to reach their full potential. We do so 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.

Explore a draft of City Year’s Guidelines for Taking an Equity-based Approach to Research and Evaluation.

To help guide this work, City Year has developed a research and learning agenda to serve as a roadmap for our future research and learning. Our agenda, which is updated regularly, specifies the research questions that will guide City Year’s current and future projects, allowing us to continually improve our services by applying existing evidence of what works, generating new knowledge, and innovating on new approaches to program delivery.

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 improvements on state tests, 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.

City Year's Research and Learning Agenda
Spring 2022

We’re happy to share with you City Year’s first public-facing Research and Learning Agenda. This document, which reflects insights from AmeriCorps members, site, HQ staff and external partners, represents the collective work of the ERS Team over multiple years. It outlines the equity-based approach we have adopted and how we aspire to do this work. The agenda also signals what our current and future research projects are designed to explore—information that strengthens the case for holistic student supports in schools and contributes to the growing evidence base about what all young people need to learn, develop and thrive.


“Through an equitable approach to research, we hope to make explicit City Year’s commitment to conducting research that decenters the researcher and restores communities as authors and owners of the work.”

Student Success Coach Target Program Profile
Intentional Futures (2022)

City Year partnered with Intentional Futures (iF) to identify the key components of a K-12 student success coaching (SSC) program using a mixed methods research approach. Intentional Futures developed a working hypothesis (a Target Program Profile or TPP) that identified six essential components or “drivers” of a SSC program.


Key findings:

  • A key principle of the TPP is to center and elevate the voices of those closest to the implementation of the student success coach model: SSCs, students and teachers.
  • Central to the SSC model is an organizational commitment to ongoing learning and development for student success coaches as young professionals, future changemakers and the extraordinary, service-oriented citizens they are.
  • We believe that SSCs advance educational equity. SSCs represent an intentional counter to inequality and systemic deficits and an intentional promotion of thriving across multiple domains for students who experience inequity and injustice.
  • This intentionality is reflected by where SSCs serve, the diversity of teams of SSCs, and their asset-based approach to the work.
Connecting social-emotional development and academic indicators across multiple years
(The Everyone Graduates Center 2022)

Connecting social-emotional development and academic indicators across multiple years is a follow up report building on a 2020 study by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University that validates a holistic approach to student supports—academic, social and emotional.


The new report uses additional years of student data to expand on the initial 2020 report, reinforcing the importance of building students’ social-emotional skills and showing when a student spends time with a City Year AmeriCorps member, who serves as a student success coach, during one academic year, the positive effects are durable over multiple years.

Read the report.

Explore the study overview.

Read the 2020 Everyone Graduates Center study below.

Connecting Social-Emotional Development, Academic Achievement, and On-Track Outcomes
The Everyone Graduates Center (2020)

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University conducted an analysis to understand the relationship between students’ social-emotional and academic outcomes and to explore if there is a City Year effect.


Key Findings:

  • There is a statistically significant, consistent relationship between student social-emotional skills and academic outcomes, with an enhanced impact in the ninth grade. The study found that making gains in social-emotional skills is like gaining an entire school year of achievement growth in math or English for students in grades 3-10. ​
  • More time spent with a City Year AmeriCorps member is associated with improvements in social, emotional, academic, and attendance 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 (ELA) skills. Time spent with an AmeriCorps member in math or ELA had direct impact on those areas and also significant indirect impacts by improving social-emotional outcomes.​

Download City Year’s study overview

Challenges and Opportunities: Student and Practitioner Experiences during COVID-19
(July 2021)

During the 2020-2021 school year, we explored: what practitioners and students were experiencing as a result of COVID-19-induced school closures; how practitioners shifted their practices in virtual and hybrid learning environments; to what extent City Year’s guidance and tools were helpful; and how school closures have affected student, teacher and AmeriCorps members experiences.


Key takeaways:

Social-emotional health should be a factor when assessing a student’s readiness to learn.
Integrating academics and social-emotional learning and viewing students holistically was already an increasingly supported framework pre-pandemic but has now become more important than ever and should be central to any efforts to reimagine schooling.

AmeriCorps members serving as Student Success Coaches are invaluable partners to teachers as they work together to meet students’ shifting needs—a testament to the value of this strategically integrated additional capacity.
In many schools, COVID-19 has allowed for even deeper collaboration among AmeriCorps members and teachers.


The following should be considered as critical to efforts to reimagine schooling:

  • Intentional integration of social, emotional and academic supports
  • Intentional integration of technology
  • Increased engagement with families
  • Enhanced enrichment programs including afterschool
  • Additional capacity provided by student success coaches

Download the case study.
Download the study overview.

How a Personalized Approach to Learning Helped One Organization Quickly Adapt in a Global Pandemic: A City Year Case Study
by Jacquie Beaubien, Motivation, Mindset & Equity Consulting (2021)

Funded by The Leon Lowenstein Foundation, this study explores how City Year successfully responded to and adapted in-person services to distance learning and hybrid environments in 2020, as school districts navigated the challenges of COVID-19. The report offers insights on practices and learning environments that enabled personalized and holistic approaches to student learning and development, including prioritizing relationships, trust and social-emotional support.


Key Findings:

  • Modeling a personalized approach to learning and development at all levels of the organization allowed for nimbleness and innovation during a global pandemic.
  • Prioritizing trust and strong relationships is the foundation for successful personalization of learning for young people.
  • An increased focus on social-emotional learning and equity that ensures inclusive human-centered practices and approaches throughout the organization was a silver lining in the wake of the pandemic and racial justice reckoning.
  • Leaning into building strong developmental relationships proved critical for maintaining student engagement.

Download City Year’s case study overview
Download City Year’s practitioner guide


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.

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

Addressing early warning indicators: interim impact findings from the investing in innovation (i3) evaluation of Diplomas Now
MDRC (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

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

Our current research projects, including one funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, are yielding valuable lessons about the role of student success coaches, developmental relationships, integrated approaches to student learning that harness students’ social-emotional and academic strengths and a commitment to supporting learning environments that foster belonging and engagement in efforts to accelerate student success.

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