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City Year receives grant to expand networks for school improvement

Second grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will build upon successful pilot and expand City Year’s work to accelerate learning across its network of schools

BOSTON (December 11, 2019)—City Year, in partnership with the Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University’s School of Education, received a second grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of the foundation’s Networks for School Improvement (NSI) portfolio. The five-year $12.7 million grant will accelerate City Year’s work to support schools in using continuous improvement practices to help students, particularly students of color and students from low-income families, complete eighth grade on track to high school graduation.

As part of the foundation’s first cohort of NSI grantees in 2018, City Year convened a group of five middle schools in Milwaukee to work and learn together to identify and address, using continuous improvement practices, factors that could improve eighth grade student on-track outcomes. With the new grant from the foundation, City Year will build upon the early success of the Milwaukee pilot to validate its NSI model, growing to 10 schools in Milwaukee and expanding the NSI effort to three additional cities in the next five years. City Year has identified Tulsa, Oklahoma as the location for launch of the second Network for School Improvement in 2020.

“We’re inspired by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s commitment to ensuring that all students can learn, grow and reach their potential, which aligns with City Year’s work to advance educational equity in our nation’s systemically under-resourced schools,” said City Year CEO Jim Balfanz. “We’re grateful for the foundation’s continued investment in City Year’s work to leverage our national network of partner schools to create structures for educators and school partners to learn, innovate and spread practices that help support students’ holistic success.”

Promising outcome data is emerging from the early work of the NSI in Milwaukee, where participants identified ways to improve approaches to addressing behavioral challenges to create a foundation for ongoing student success. At the end of the 2018-2019 school year, behavior referrals dropped significantly in 80% of the NSI schools; at one school, referrals decreased by over 30%. In addition, suspensions decreased in 60% of the NSI schools.

“This program is helping our district realize its vision for student success—100% of our principals strongly agreed that through their NSI experience, they improved their leadership skills and that the program was useful in improving their ability to analyze data to better understand problems they are trying to solve,” said City Year Milwaukee Executive Director Meralis T. Hood.

“The NSI is a tremendous opportunity for Tulsa Public Schools to expand the way we partner with City Year as we work to redesign our middle schools,” said Deborah Gist, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. “We’re looking forward to developing this community with our middle schools as we generate insights and develop, implement and sustain proven practices to get us closer to the district’s mission of inspiring and preparing every student to love learning, achieve ambitious goals and make positive contributions to our world.”

“We are excited to build on our existing partnership with Tulsa Public Schools and to continue to focus on creating greater equity for our students. Developing this community in Tulsa will help provide more supports to students and empower them to achieve their dreams,” said Paul Davis, executive director of City Year Tulsa.

City Year is one of 10 grantees in the second cohort of the foundation’s NSI program. Grantees will serve as intermediaries in bringing together groups of middle or high schools to use a continuous improvement process to significantly increase the number of Black, Latino, and low-income students who earn a high school diploma, enroll in a postsecondary institution, and are on track in their first year to earn a credential with labor-market value.


About City Year

City Year helps students and schools succeed. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members provide support to students, classrooms and the whole school, helping to ensure that students in systemically under-resourced schools receive a high-quality education that prepares them with the skills and mindsets to thrive and contribute to their community. A 2015 study shows that schools that partner with City Year were up to two-to-three times more likely to improve on math and English assessments.

A proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network, City Year is supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service, local school districts and private philanthropy. City Year partners with public schools in 29 communities across the U.S. and through international affiliates in the U.K. and South Africa. Learn more at or on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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