Evaluation of Citizen Schools

Youth Development / Expanded Learning Opportunities
Citizen Schools
PSA Directors
Juliet Diehl Vile and Erikson Arcaira

Citizen Schools provides enriched after-school learning opportunities to low-income youth in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, with the aim of preparing students to achieve long-term academic, social, career, and civic success. The final report of a seven-year evaluation series examines the academic trajectories of former Boston participants as they progressed through high school. Analyses compare students' selection of and persistence in top-tier high schools, school engagement (i.e., school attendance and suspension), academic achievement (i.e., course grades and standardized test scores), and progress toward and achievement of high school graduation (i.e., on-time promotion, on-track to graduation, and four-year graduation rate). Analyses compare former 8th Grade Academy participants with matched nonparticipants and, when possible, with BPS students overall.

In the final analysis of Citizen Schools' youth outcomes in Boston, evaluators found that former Citizen Schools participants were more likely than matched nonparticipants to enroll and persist in a top-tier high school. Former participants enrolled in top-tier high schools at more than twice the rate of matched comparison students. In addition, former participants were more likely to persist in a top-tier high school from ninth to eleventh grade and from ninth to twelfth grade. Overall, former participants enrolled and completed all four years of high school in a top-tier school at more than three times the rate of matched comparison students.

Former Citizen Schools participants had, on average, significantly higher attendance rates in high school than did matched nonparticipants. Differences ranged from an additional week of school attended in the tenth grade to an additional two and a half weeks attended in eleventh grade. There were no statistical differences in suspension rates between former participants and matched nonparticipants.

Citizen Schools participation was associated with higher math performance, as measured by high school course grades and MCAS test scores. Evaluators found that former participants outperformed matched nonparticipants in their early high school math courses. Former participants were more likely than matched nonparticipants to pass math in ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade and were more likely to earn As and Bs than were their matches in their ninth- and tenth-grade math courses. While both participants and matched nonparticipants had similar, fairly high pass rates for the tenth-grade mathematics MCAS, participants earned higher scores, earning proficient and advanced levels at higher rates than their matches. Comparing participant performance to Boston Public Schools (BPS) district performance, evaluators found that former participants were more likely to pass the mathematics MCAS than the average BPS student. In addition, former participants attending BPS non-exam schools were also more likely to pass the mathematics MCAS than the average BPS student attending a non-exam school.

Overall, the report shows that participation in Citizen Schools was associated with successful high school transitions, compared to student peers who did not participate in the program. It also shows that program participation was associated with long-term benefits, especially the successful completion of high school.