Report Highlights Role of Nonprofits in Overcoming Educational Effects of Poverty

Lauren Williams's picture
Thursday, February 28, 2013

A report to be released next week as part of the Grad Nation Summit in Washington, DC, highlights the unique role that nonprofit groups, community volunteers, and full-time national service members can play in the efforts to overcome the challenges placed on students as a result of poverty. The report, sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies and authored by Dr. Bob Balfanz, co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, argues that in order to overcome the educational impacts of poverty, high-need schools must provide direct, evidence-based supports for students.

The full report, "Overcoming the Poverty Challenge to Enable College and Career Readiness for All," can be found here.

"Poverty can propel students to attend school less often, struggle behaviorally, and to put forth diminished effort. In short, it interferes with students' ability to attend, behave and try," the report concludes.  "In order to successfully confront the poverty challenge, we need to rethink our approach to student supports.  To move towards high impact, cost-effective student support strategies, we need to adopt an evidence-based framework for providing student supports and wisely deploying the increased capacity of nonprofit organizations that leverage community volunteers and national service members to provide the human capital and expertise needed to implement and scale evidence-based student supports in schools that serve high-poverty populations."

The report makes the case for the strategic deployment of community volunteers and full-time national service members to provide evidence-based student supports. Organizations such as the Minnesota Reading Corps, the Nashville K-2 Reading Program, Experience Corps, and GenerationOn are specifically designed to leverage citizen volunteers able to support struggling students periodically for a set period of time.

Diplomas Now, a collaboration of specialized organizations – City Year, Communities in Schools, and Talent Development Secondary – is designed for whole school support, improving student and school performance. A partnership of this type is designed specifically for a school with large segments of the student population performing behind grade level.

A third level of community partnership, the report argues, is necessary for district-wide intervention for school systems facing multiple low-performing schools, high rates of chronic absenteeism, and soaring dropout rates. A unique combination of nonprofit, specialized organizations that leverage all community assets by deploying community volunteers and full-time national service members can make full use of the available assets. AmeriCorps programs like Jumpstart, Citizen Schools, Playworks, City Year and others can work in partnership with a district for this purpose.

The implications of the absence of these direct, evidence-based student supports are daunting. As the report indicates, schools with the need for these supports, but without the deployment of effective strategies to implement them, tend to fall back on so-called "ad hoc" strategies, which can be costly, but result in low impact.

Finally, the report, sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies, argues for the need for secure funding to deploy direct, evidence-based student supports. The delay in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, lack of incentives on state and local levels for the implementation of evidence-based strategies, and reduced investment in the Corporation for National and Community Service all serve as barriers to the strategic deployment of direct, evidence-based student supports.

"Decision makers at all levels of government must recognize that student supports are necessary to achieving the educational outcomes the nation needs to succeed, and must ensure that secure and continuous federal and state funding streams be developed to enable the implementation of high impact, cost-effective student supports at the scale and intensity required," the report argues. "Only with this continuous funding will America achieve the national imperative of providing all students with the support they need to graduate from high school prepared for college and career, and get back on track to having the most educated citizenry in the world."

The full report can be found here.

About City Year: City Year is an education-focused, nonprofit organization founded in 1988 that partners with public schools to provide full-time targeted intervention for students most at risk of dropping out.  In more than 20 communities across the United States and through two international affiliates, our teams of young AmeriCorps leaders support students by focusing on attendance, behavior, and course performance through in-class tutoring, mentoring, and after school programs that keep kids in school and on track to graduate.

About Everyone Graduates Center: The mission of the Everyone Graduates Center is to develop and disseminate the know-how required to enable all students to graduate from high school prepared for college, career, and civic life. Through a systematic and comprehensive approach, EGC combines analysis of the causes, location, and consequences of the nation's dropout crisis with the development of tools and models designed to keep all students on the path to high school graduation, and capacity building efforts to enable states, communities, school districts, and schools to provide all their students with the supports they need to succeed. The Everyone Graduate Center seeks to identify the barriers that stand in the way of all students graduating from high school prepared for adult success, to develop strategic solutions to overcome the barriers, and to build local capacity to implement and sustain them.