City Year’s Comprehensive Approach Achieves

Academic Gains for Low-Income Schools, New Study Finds

The AmeriCorps Program’s Impact is “Significant,”

Says Policy Studies Associates

BOSTON, June 9, 2015 – High-poverty elementary, middle, and high schools in urban neighborhoods are more likely to improve on state student assessments in English and math if they partner with City Year AmeriCorps members for academic and social-emotional skill supports, according to a newly released third-party study.

As measured by publicly available state assessment data, schools that partner with City Year were two-to-three times more likely to improve school-wide proficiency rates in English Language Arts and math than schools with similar demographic and performance profiles that do not have the added benefit of City Year AmeriCorps members. Additionally, students in schools that partner with City Year gain approximately one month of additional learning in English Language Arts and math compared to demographically similar students in other schools not partnering with City Year.

The 44-page study, conducted by Policy Studies Associates Inc. (PSA) of Washington, D.C., is the first national third-party research to examine the impact of City Year’s “Whole School Whole Child” (WSWC) model on the performance of entire schools.  PSA used a methodology common in education and social science research – a quasi-experimental comparison group design – to assess City Year’s school-wide impact on its partner elementary, middle, and high schools. 

“This study reflected an innovative analysis of publicly available data to assess City Year's impact across multiple cities.  The results show that City Year's ‘Whole School Whole Child’ impact nationally is significant,” said Leslie Anderson, Principal Investigator for the study.

City Year AmeriCorps members are young adults who commit to a year of full-time service in high- poverty public schools.  Corps members directly promote academic achievement and foster student engagement in and out of the classroom in order to help students graduate from high school ready for college and workforce participation. City Year currently partners with more than 260 schools in 26 urban communities across the United States, with international affiliates in the United Kingdom and South Africa.  Corps members receive more than 300 hours of targeted professional training and become an additional resource for teachers and school leaders.

“This study underscores how City Year’s whole school approach, rooted in strong partnerships with teachers and principals, can improve student achievement across an entire school,” said Jim Balfanz, City Year President.  “As a learning organization, City Year is always seeking new information that informs our work and enables us to better serve students, families, educators, and communities.”

In conducting the new research, PSA studied more than 600 similar schools in high-poverty urban settings in 22 cities, of which 150 had partnered with City Year and 460 had not.  PSA researchers retrieved the state testing results for math and English Language Arts for each school. 

   Dr. Gil Noam, a Harvard University expert in social and emotional learning who reviewed the PSA research, praised City Year for recognizing and addressing the many elements that shape a school’s environment and the needs of students.

“City Year offers a holistic model that focuses on creating engaging and positive learning environments and it’s very encouraging to see increasing evidence that this approach achieves academic gains,” added Noam, who directs Harvard’s Program in Education, Afterschool & Resiliency (PEAR) and provides comprehensive training for City Year school-based staff.

City Year, which commissioned the Policy Studies Associates research, is part of the national AmeriCorps network and receives support from the federal Corporation for National and Community Service.  The national nonprofit also receives support from school district partnerships and private philanthropy from corporations, foundations, and individuals.  The public-private partnership brings together more than 2,800 young adults who serve in high need elementary, middle and high schools.  City Year provides support to students and schools over several years with the goal of significantly increasing the number of students who are on track to graduate, prepared for college and career. 


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For an overview and full report of the PSA study, please visit our research page.