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The power of student success coaches in schools

City Year is releasing a new resource for practitioners, The Power of Student Success Coaches in Community Schools. This guide is designed to help school and district leaders leverage their community partnerships to ensure students in systemically under-resourced schools have the mentors and tutors they need to succeed—specifically through adding capacity with student success coaches.

Through City Year’s expertise serving students and schools in New York, including in 17 community schools, and with support from the LEGO Foundation, City Year developed this playbook to elevate opportunities for collaboration to help address the needs of all students.

What is a student success coach?

Student success coaches (SSCs) are young people, ages 17 to 25, who are recruited and trained to serve on diverse teams in systemically under-resourced schools as tutors, mentors and role models. As near-peers they’re mature enough to offer guidance yet young enough to relate to students’ perspectives. Every day, they partner with classroom teachers and offer one-on-one and small group instruction to students, whether that’s mastering fractions or honing key social skills like teamwork and resilience.

At the heart of this work are the positive, trusting and consistent relationships that SSCs, who are often AmeriCorps members, build with students over time. SSCs help students develop a sese of belonging and connection, and they create afterschool programming and fun events that enhance a school’s culture and climate.

Line drawing of AmeriCorps member and student over a yellow, rectangular overlay

Learn more about developmental relationships—a cornerstone of City Year’s approach in schools.

Research shows that student success coaching is effective in helping students academically, socially, emotionally, and in terms of attendance and that positive effects last longer than a single school year.

Student success coaching helps build pathways into teaching and fosters a lifelong commitment to educational equity

Spending a year serving in schools can also help young adults determine if they are interested in entering the education field, making student success coaching a vital pathway into teaching at a time when teachers and other school-based staff such as counselors and social workers are in short supply in many parts of the country. According to a 2022 survey of City Year alumni, 48% of City Year alumni report they currently work in education as teachers, principals, guidance counselors, social workers, in education policy or at education-focused nonprofits. Our alumni bring their experience and passion for furthering equity their professional lives, are significantly more diverse than the national teaching force, and tend to stay in teaching longer than the national average.

“Having student success coaches in classrooms and working with schools brings an extra set of hands and an extra person who can build a trusting relationship with a student and keep them connected to school and to their education. This work is vital.”

—Dr. Pedro Noguera, dean of USC Rossier School of Education


What is a community school?

Though written specifically with community schools in mind, the playbook offers useful insights for other kinds of schools as well.

What is a community school?

The Coalition for Community Schools defines a community school as a public school that serves as “the hub of its neighborhood, uniting families, educators and community partners as an evidence-based strategy to promote equity and educational excellence for each and every child, and an approach that strengthens families and community.”

While student success coaches can and do serve in schools operating outside the community school model, community schools offer a unique opportunity to leverage the resources and assets in a community through intentional partnerships. This playbook delves into the power of integrating the six key drivers of student success coach programs with the six key practices of community schools.

The document also highlights examples of how SSCs augment community school practices, provides a year-long schedule for introducing and scaffolding student success programs, and offers six recommendations for policy and partnership to bolster both SSCs and community schools.


Key practices to bring holistic supports to life in schools.

The playbook identifies six key practices of community schools that student success coaches can enhance and offers concrete tips and examples for how school leaders can implement similar changes in their schools.

Please explore the playbook for detail and real-life examples on how student success coaches enhance the following practices:

Key practice 1: Collaborative leadership, shared power and voice

Key practice 2: Expanded, enriched learning opportunities

Key practice 3: Rigorous, community connected classroom instruction

Key practice 4: Culture of belonging, safety and care

Key practice 5: Integrated systems of support

Key practice 6: Powerful student and family engagement


Six recommendations for policy and partnership

We’re sharing our recommendations based on years of research, site visits and focus group discussions with community school leaders, community-based organizations that operate schools, and other practitioners in the community school space.

We’ve highlighted key recurring themes around the practice of integrating SSCs into community schools to expand capacity. Policy at the local, state, and federal level, which dictates everything from funding to incentives to accountability, also plays a key role in supporting and growing the work of SSCs in community schools.

Below are six policy recommendations for those outside the school building to support this work and bolster both SSCs and community schools:

1. Prioritize policies and strategies that foster a positive school culture in which every student feels safe, is engaged in school, and has access to positive developmental relationships.

2. Incentivize the integration of partner organizations into the school community.

3. Expand community school and AmeriCorps funding, particularly in historically under-resourced areas.

4. Establish and maintain high-quality teacher pathways for SSC and/or AmeriCorps alumni to maximize and build on their experience through continued work in education.

5. Establish and expand technical assistance centers for community schools and student success coach programs to provide evidence-based research, practice, and implementation assistance to communities. (Examples can be found at the National Partnership for Student Success, which offers technical assistance for a variety of evidence-based student supports, including student success coaching.)

6. Expand the definition of school success and accountability metrics to include the holistic social, emotional, academic development of students.

Closing thoughts about student success coaches in schools

Research and experience in schools demonstrate the impact of secure, trusting, and consistent relationships on children’s learning and development. When students feel seen, valued, and cared for, they have a strong foundation to thrive in school, career, and life.

Icon of multiple documents with a teal circle overlay

City Year’s white paper on relational trust explores how student success coaches contribute to a sense of belonging, safety and trust in the schoolhouse.

Student success coaches provide both social-emotional and academic support every day, increasing the capacity for schools to serve the whole child. Working together, community schools’ and SSC’s students-first approach to schooling are advancing education equity in their communities. There is natural alignment between the six drivers of successful SSC programs and the six key practices of community schools, and the impact is already being seen in New York City where City Year student success coaches have been serving across 17 community schools.

From them, we have learned three key considerations for successful student success coach integration, conditions that are also essential for all healthy school ecosystems:

    • Role clarity throughout the school building
    • School-wide collaboration
    • Supportive, trusting leadership

By continuing to learn what is needed to effectively maximize student success, SSCs can have a deeper impact in schools across the nation. Local, state, and federal investment is crucial to reduce and remove the barriers to this work. Comprehensive funding streams, expanded awareness, and technical assistance for community schools and student success coach programs can support the development of replicable, scalable approaches to addressing educational inequities.

We are hopeful that together we can better leverage the power of existing community efforts to harness an integrated social-emotional and academic approach to support student learning and thriving. Together, we can re-envision what schools can be: more joyful, equitable and welcoming places that promote positive relationships, engaging learning environments, and a sense of belonging for students and the adults who work with them.

Explore the playbook and other City Year publications

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