Feedback from key partners: teachers and principals
At a time when many of us who work and serve in schools are eager for information about how our students, teachers and school-based staff are really doing after so many pandemic-related disruptions, we are grateful at City Year to have deep and long-lasting school and community partnerships that provide us with candid and on-going feedback on our approach and services.
Key partners that my team and I communicate with as members of City Year’s District Engagement Department include hundreds of teachers and principals at the 320 public schools where City Year AmeriCorps members serve full time as student success coaches.
Our partner educators give us continuous feedback on our holistic approach to student and school success and the impact corps members have on individual and groups of students, classrooms and the whole school.
The importance of honest and regular feedback from City Year’s partner schools
Through our service in schools, City Year seeks to contribute to joyful, engaging and welcoming learning environments where all members of the school community can feel a sense of belonging, cultivate a growth mindset, and set and reach their goals.
“City Year continues to be a powerful part of our school programming. They develop strong professional relationships with the students and for some students they are the reason that the students come to school.”
–City Year partner principal Spring 2021 survey
As student success coaches, our AmeriCorps members build positive, caring and consistent relationships with the students they serve. They are near-peer tutors, mentors and role models—mature enough to offer guidance while young enough to relate to students’ perspectives. These coaches advance student learning and development through integrating academic and social-emotional supports throughout the school day.
We can’t achieve our goals without the support from and communication with our school partners. Classroom teachers and administrators let us know how our services help to meet their local needs, respond to changing environments and priorities, and advance their school improvement goals through candid conversations with our sites and headquarter team as well as quarterly surveys.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, our team regularly solicited their input, using their real-time insights to refine the training of our corps and the services they provide to students. We learned so much about how our AmeriCorps members were helping students, teachers and families to navigate unprecedented challenges.
“City Year has been amazing! Remote learning and teaching can be very challenging. Having my City Year AmeriCorps member here to partner teach and support our students both academically and socially-emotionally during these challenging times has been critical to our success with our young people this year.”
–City Year partner teacher 2020-2021 school year
Flexibility and responsiveness to local needs are key to City Year’s relationships with students and schools
Our partnerships with schools and educators enabled each of City Year’s 29 U.S. sites to respond differently to the local needs in each of the communities we serve.
At City Year Columbia, for example, City Year AmeriCorps members were instrumental in delivering meals to students during the school day and to their families after hours.
At City Year Sacramento, our corps was able to reach even more groups of students who needed support through distance learning by expanding online tutoring sessions.
In the early days of the pandemic, City Year corps members in many communities delivered laptops to students’ homes and regularly called family members to check in on how they were doing.
Through quarterly surveys, we asked our partner principals what they look for in their partner organizations. The most common response was flexibility and a willingness to align with school goals and priorities.
Especially since March 2020, we have been focused on finding creative ways to adapt and respond to our school partners’ evolving needs, understand their classroom and school-wide priorities, earn and keep their trust, and adjust our tools and programs accordingly, all while providing our services with consistency and fidelity.
These priorities are even more urgent during the pandemic, as schools have navigated constantly changing circumstances and local contexts. Our approach as has led to 98% of principals saying they feel supported by us in the implementation of their school learning models (in-person, virtual, and hybrid) and 95% of principals reporting that we have been adaptable and flexible in supporting their schools needs during the 2020-2021 school year.
The way our services have evolved over time means that while we never lose sight of the importance of supporting students holistically, the actual ways we show up for students can look a bit different, depending on local context, opportunities and goals.
In some of the cities where we serve, providing enrichment and afterschool programs is a priority, while in others, AmeriCorps members play a leading role in hosting events to encourage attendance and family engagement, for example.
How City Year supports students, teachers and schools
Partner teachers and principals have helped us to understand how City Year AmeriCorps members have shown up for them and for students and their families before and since March 2020, as well as how we can continue to refine and adjust our supports for the coming school year.
City Year’s end-of-year Q4 service teacher partner survey received 1,187 responses from 246 schools at 28 of 29 U.S. sites, while the end-of-year Q4 principal/administrator survey received 363 responses from 195 schools at 28 of 29 U.S. sites.
- Attendance and engagement initiatives
- Integrated academic and social-emotional development
- ELA tutoring
- Math tutoring
- School climate activities
- Social-emotional learning
What are schools looking for in their partners? They want partners who are flexible and able to align with school goals and priorities; focused on supporting a positive school climate and culture; prepared to support student progress in key academic areas including English Language Arts, mathematics and science; and able to provide services that are integrated into the school day.
High satisfaction levels from our partners
In terms of satisfaction with our service, 94% of principals reported they were satisfied with the overall experience of partnering with City Year and with the quality of service provided by the organization.
“City Year has pivoted on a dime to continue to deliver support and services to staff, students and families at [our] high school during the Covid-19 pandemic. They have remained focused and positive. I love having City Year in my building. Their presence makes a difference in the lives of my students.”
–City Year partner principal Spring 2021 survey
City Year’s partner teachers reported similarly positive results, with 93% saying they “felt supported by City Year in my school’s transition” from in person to virtual or hybrid learning and 93% reporting that they were satisfied with the impact of City Year on their class and students.
Working with two City Year AmeriCorps members “was a fantastic experience for myself and my students,” wrote one partner teacher. “Without City Year, this year would have been even more challenging than it was,” shared another.
Emphasizing continuous improvement
While the feedback we receive from our school partners is overwhelmingly positive, the surveys also provide an important opportunity for teachers and principals to highlight things that are not working as well as they could be and that we can seek to improve.
For example, in some schools, AmeriCorps members are not as integrated into the school community as in others, which results in their services having less of an impact than we, or our school partners, would want.
Communication between City Year and our school partners, particularly during the pandemic, can also present challenges, depending on real-time circumstances, learning structures and available technologies, and the strength of relationships.
“This was a challenging year for everyone,” wrote one administrator. “I think the City Year [AmeriCorps members] did the best they could, given the circumstances. The virtual setting made things a bit more difficult… I feel as though this year, our administration and City Year were a bit disconnected…I love City Year and feel that our students benefit from these young graduates wanting to give back and work with our students.”
We take all of the feedback—positive and critical—seriously and know that it helps all of us to continue to refine programs and practices with one aim: to help students and schools to succeed.
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