City Year Seattle / King County’s Plan to Support Students’ Pandemic Rebound & Strengthen the AmeriCorps Experience
Students around the country and those we serve in Seattle Public Schools have faced significant interrupted learning and community loss during the COVID pandemic. A September 2022 New York Times article demonstrates just how severely students were impacted by the pandemic. The National Assessment of Educational Progress tests were administered to a national sample of 9-year-olds in math and reading and compared to previous scores in 2020 prior to the pandemic. The results show that students lost ground in math and reading scores fell by the largest margin in 30 years. While declines spanned almost all races and income levels, the scores were markedly worse for the lowest-performing students, which could lead to disengagement in school and decrease the likelihood that students will graduate from high school or attend college. We also know that locally and nationally, school communities are facing an educator shortage, further exacerbating the challenge of connecting and motivating students. According to National Center for Education Statistics, 44% of public schools reported full- or part-time vacancies in March 2022. This shortage impacts student achievement, adult well-being and educator retention. In the midst of these challenges, we know that City Year can positively impact student learning and students’ connection to their education experience.
City Year Seattle/King County and Seattle Public Schools have worked together for over two decades to ensure that students have equitable access to education to improve personal and academic outcomes and to increase the number of students who graduate from high school on time. We recruit, train, and deploy teams of AmeriCorps members into Seattle Public Schools to provide one-on-one and small group interventions in English language arts, math, attendance, and social-emotional learning to help students gain confidence, proficiency, and make progress in key subjects. By harnessing the passion and leadership potential of AmeriCorps members, we help thousands of students stay in school and on track to graduate, ready for college and career. Learn more about City Year’s Whole School, Whole Child model and our evidence of impact here.
In response to our current realities, the systemic inequities students faced prior to COVID, the learning loss exacerbated by the pandemic, the shortage of educators, and uncharacteristically low AmeriCorps member recruitment, City Year Seattle/King County has established a multi-year plan we believe will support students, young adults and school districts in our communities. Over the next 3-5 years, City Year Seattle/King County will:
- Build a Larger, More Local, More Diverse AmeriCorps Team – We believe that local young adults, who share lived experience with our students, will lead to increased ability to connect with and drive outcomes for students. We have already invested in hiring a Community Partnership Manager, a new position in 2022, who is focusing their work on recruiting AmeriCorps Members out of local high schools, community colleges, and communities. However, we also know that young adults from communities like the ones we serve often are facing system barriers of their own and may require additional supports to enable the national service experience to be valuable and accessible. To reduce barriers to accessing national service through City Year Seattle / King County, we plan to also pursue the following investments.
- Increase AmeriCorps Member Living Stipend, Reduce Housing Costs – We plan to reduce financial barriers to accessing national service. In 2021-2022, stipends increased from $12,500 to $15,000 annually. In 2022-2023, stipends again increased to $20,000 annually. By 2023-2024, we will again increase stipends to $25,000 annually. The importance of their service demands that their fundamental needs and wellbeing be adequately addressed through City Year support, benefits, and a living stipend. We made this shift because we know it will help City Year be a competitive and compelling option for young adults and we know it will have retention benefits as well. In addition, City Year’s national office is establishing a new AmeriCorps member emergency fund to help those facing unexpected financial hardship (for example natural disasters and other unforeseen life events) to navigate emergencies and continue to serve. Finally, we plan to build partnerships locally to provide reduced housing costs for AmeriCorps Members. According to rentcafe.com, the average apartment (691 sq ft) in Seattle rents for $2,324 per month. This cost exceeds the current living stipend and either drives AmeriCorps Members to live further away from our service area or limits access to the City Year AmeriCorps Member experience to just those who can supplement their stipend with additional financial resources.
- Build Educator and Career Pathways for AmeriCorps Members and Alumni – City Year AmeriCorps members are a diverse group of the nation’s future leaders. Over the next three years, our goal is for every AmeriCorps member to graduate from our program with either a job or acceptance to an educational next step. For more than a quarter of our Corps annually, this next step is continued post-secondary education. For others this is launching into a career. More than 50% of our AmeriCorps Members annually enter service with a desire to explore career pathways in education. We plan to build capacity, programming, and partnerships for AmeriCorps Members in the following ways; increased access to more robust career development offerings, pathways for accessing education careers, building internships for graduating AmeriCorps members, building partnerships for job interviews with local companies, and strengthening mentorship and career exploration programs.
- Catalyze Increased Community Investment to Drive Work – To create an experience that is accessible to talented young BIPOC adults, from our local community to serve in City Year Seattle / King County’s Corps will require significant resources, sustained over time. We are undertaking an ambitious, multi-year effort to grow our revenue from a $5M annual budget to a $7M annual budget over the next 3-5 years to provide capacity and resources to meet this moment.
To learn more about City Year Seattle / King County’s future direction and plans, contact Tarra Mitchell, Executive Director.