How Can Communities Deliver Academic and Social Supports Outside of the Classroom?

October 2015

While offering academic support in classrooms is very important, support outside of the classroom is also crucial. Reaching students beyond the school day requires cross-sector partnerships between community-based organizations, school districts, parent organizations, foundations, higher education institutions, city and county governments, healthcare providers, and often business organizations, such as local law firms. These supports can also include targeted hands-on academic support beyond typical school hours, available through after-school and summer programming. Additional hours of learning mitigate learning loss during long periods away from school and keep students moving steadily forward in their education, fostering higher college and career aspirations even when school is not in session.

Students also benefit from non-academic supports for their social and emotional well-being, as well as for their financial stability. These supports should be tailored to address students’ unique situations, and may be targeted to serve low-income families, students of color, veterans, or adult learners. Adult students, for instance, may need special supports outside of the classroom, such as child care services to help juggle their various family responsibilities on top of education. Wraparound services ensure that all students—not just those whose families can afford it—have access to myriad supports for personal development and well-being. Below are a few examples that have been used to provide students with academic and social supports outside of the classroom.

After-School Programs: Does your community want to offer students learning opportunities that take place outside of typical school hours? These programs enrich the academic experiences of students, helping them to develop new skills and interests, and become college and career ready. After-school programs may focus on a variety of subjects, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Summer Programs: Does your community want to mitigate learning loss during summer breaks? These programs help students smoothly transition from one grade to the next, maintain college and scholarship eligibility, combat learning loss, and gain skills and interests. University-sponsored on-campus summer enrichment programs, in particular, expose students to college life and build their postsecondary aspirations.

Community Learning Centers: Does your community want to establish hubs for community services to create a system of integrated partnerships? Community Learning Centers strengthen connections within communities, creating spaces that not only promote academic excellence but also provide recreational, social, health, civil, and cultural opportunities in convenient locations. Through a coordinated delivery of services, these centers feature supports such as adult education, art programs, mental health counseling, heath services, and youth development activities.

Wraparound Services: Does your community want to provide intensive and holistic support to address students’ non-academic needs? These services collaboratively develop individualized plans to help students view postsecondary education as an attainable goal. Wraparound services may include career counseling, health screenings, legal clinics, and transportation assistance.

The following section includes an interview with the executive director of the Buffalo, New York, chapter of Say Yes to Education, an organizational model that relies on a number of cross-sector partnerships and a student management data system to make services more accessible to students. We include a sample data-sharing agreement template and theory of action to assist communities with finding new ways to support all students through greater collaboration. This chapter ends with a list of additional resources, where you can find more information on delivering comprehensive supports outside of the classroom.

Say Yes to Education, Buffalo,New York: Comprehensive Wraparound College-Readiness Supports

  • David Rust, Executive Director, Say Yes to Education, Buffalo

IHEP spoke to David Rust about the Buffalo chapter of Say Yes to Education and its numerous community-based partnerships that provide wraparound services to students and their families in the city. By aligning these services, Say Yes aims to build students’ capacity to prepare for college and to make use of the promise of tuition-free post secondary education available in Buffalo. Read this interview to learn what types of services Say Yes Buffalo partners provide, including family support specialists, mental health clinics, and legal clinics.


IHEP: What are Say Yes Buffalo’s goals for students and families?

Our primary goals are twofold: (1) increase the number of high school graduates from our Buffalo public and charter schools and (2) increase the number of college and postsecondary graduates we have who are coming out of our partner institutions, which number more than 125 public and private colleges and universities right now. We have determined that increasing the number of college and postsecondary graduates is critical to the long-term health of our community. Toward that end, the private sector and our largest foundations have made generous investments in this partnership in the form of college or postsecondary tuition scholarships for every graduate of Buffalo public and charter schools. When we launched our scholarship, the graduation rate at Buffalo Public Schools had sunk to 47 percent, a historic low; for young men of color, in particular, the graduation rate was in the low 20s. We were literally losing generations of students. Now, after only two years, we’ve seen those rates start to increase, which is really exciting.

IHEP: How do comprehensive wraparound services play into these goals?

Facilitating wraparound supports is critical to the work we’re doing. Students with behavioral, financial, and health challenges face more barriers to academic success—there is no debating that. By partnering with government and community-based entities to put in place supports like legal clinics, mental health clinics, preventive programs and more, we can remove those barriers and increase student performance and achievement— which will ultimately lead to more students accessing Say Yes scholarship opportunities. All Say Yes partners agree that we need to do whatever is needed to get more kids to and through college, and providing wraparound supports is a key part of that.

By partnering with government and community-based entities to put in place supports like legal clinics, mental health clinics, preventive programs and more, we can remove those barriers and increase student performance and achievement—which will ultimately lead to more students accessing Say Yes scholarship opportunities.


IHEP: How did you decide where to start as you rolled out supports?

Our goal was to make our schools the hubs for all of these support activities and programs. Toward this end, it was important for us to first launch the school-based staff member roles, because they are central in facilitating and convening the services in the public school buildings. We started by providing a Family Support Specialist role in each of our 55 Buffalo public schools. Using chronically poor school attendance as an indicator, these specialists conduct casework with students and families who are at risk of getting involved with child welfare or juvenile justice. They also manage our data system and help build a college-going culture, even in elementary schools. They start talking about the college scholarship opportunity with very young students and with their families.

We knew that we wanted a Family Support Specialist in every public school building. This was accomplished through a partnership with the Erie County Department of Social Services (DSS) and Catholic Charities, a local community-based organization. From there, we had a planned rollout. Out of the gate, we wanted extended school-day programs, behavior and mental health services, and access to financial aid services, so we worked on those things.

IHEP: How are services being provided and funded at each school?

In the past, DSS would respond to a call about a child welfare issue, open a case to identify the problem(s), and then work to improve the situation. Now we have this casework-type position that is proactive, instead of reactive. We can identify families in need of service, whether it’s through tutoring or mentoring at the school, or working with families directly in the home. This is a new preventive service, of which there aren’t many in New York.

We have a tremendous partnership with DSS; they are the biggest service provider in Buffalo and in Erie County. Our county government is picking up two-thirds of the cost, through a state funding stream, to help us place a Family Support Specialist in each school. We pay the local share of the cost. There is no extra cost to taxpayers because we’re taking resources that have always existed and just reallocating them.

When it comes to the other supports, we’re facilitating, for the most part; we’re not creating anything new. We’re just relocating existing services in the community directly into school buildings, so there’s not a huge cost involved. And, we’re leveraging volunteers, for example, with our legal clinics, which are staffed by local attorneys.

One of our overarching goals with Say Yes is to facilitate services and supports in a SUSTAINABLE way—too many good programs run for a few years and then disappear because of lack of sustainable funding. We put time and resources behind figuring out how to establish these programs so that they will be here for a long time to come, through a combination of public and private funding streams.


IHEP: What are some of the early results you have seen from the provision of these wraparound services?

We’ve seen the high school graduation rate go up 8 percentage points, from 48 to 56 percent, since we launched. In addition, we have also seen college matriculation go up 9 percentage points in the first year and 7 percentage points in the second. Those are strong early data points, but we need to continue to improve to get where we need to be as a community and to fulfill the promises we’ve made to our young people. These are exciting early results, but we know we have a long way to go.

I think it’s clear that the idea of attending college for many of our students has moved from hope to reality or real possibility. Lots of students have seen their siblings and their friends go off to a college or postsecondary program. Our parents say that people talk about Say Yes in the barbershops, and that’s what we want. I think we’ve invested time in communicating the services we offer and building trust and relationships so that students and families understand what’s available to them.

Looking Forward

IHEP: What are your plans for the future?

We are launching an internship program next year. We are also launching a physical health clinic to provide primary care services to students. Moving forward, we have a lot under our umbrella that we’re working on, but we know that we have to continue to strive for quality improvements. We have to ask more questions. For example, just looking at the mental health clinics: Are they being used more heavily in some parts of the city or in some schools? Are we meeting needs efficiently? Those are the types of questions we’re going to ask in every program area. The services alone help students and families, but we need to use our data to continuously drive quality improvement across all of our programs.

IHEP: Would you like to offer any last words of wisdom to communities interested in providing wraparound services?

Data sharing has been critical to determining our progress as a community. We pulled all of our partners into a room, decided that we were going to craft data-sharing agreements, and signed a memorandum of understanding that would track progress throughout our system. It has to start with a shared vision and commitment to improving student support services. It will take a few months to get the first agreement going, assuming that you’re meeting on a bi-monthly basis. Beyond that, there needs to be an ongoing conversation. We have revisited our data-sharing agreement once already to make edits and adjustments; it is a tool that will change over time, pending the needs. So, everything takes time.

Chapter 3 Download


Data-Sharing Agreement Template

This is a template for creating agreements between school districts and community organizations, by StriveTogether. The agreement is specifically for data sharing for research purposes, but it can be transformed into a general partnership agreement.

Page length: 6

Theory of Action: Creating Cradle to Career Proof Points

This tool is based on Strive Together’s Framework for Building Cradle to Career Civil Infrastructure, which consists of five Gateways: Exploring, Emerging, Sustaining, Systems Change, and Proof Point.

Page length: 2

Additional Resources

21st Century Community Learning Centers: Descriptive Study of Program Practices (2010: U.S. Department of Education)

This report evaluates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, a federal program authorized in 1994 under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), to assess the nature of activities in centers that are designed to promote student academic development, attendance, and partnerships and data created to improve programing.

Rebuilding Communities: Education’s Central Role in Mobilizing Community Reform (2012: Say Yes to Education)

Suitable for multiple stakeholders, this report narrates the story of the city of Syracuse’s whole-district overhaul to send young (underserved) students to college in partnership with Say Yes to Education, Inc. Specifically, Syracuse guaranteed qualifying graduates of the city’s five public high schools free tuition at almost 100 colleges and universities. In this report, the organization describes the strategic plan, along with successes and important lessons and identified strategies to ensure that college access leads to college success.

The Role of Community-Based Organizations in the College Access and Success Movement (2012: National College Access Network & Institute for Higher Education Policy)

Written for state-level policymakers interested in increasing the college-going and completion rates of their residents, this brief focuses on the role of community-based organizations on college access and success for underserved students. The brief finds that community-based organizations, such as College Bound St. Louis, are a valuable asset and can facilitate completion across the education spectrum, from early childhood through postsecondary completion, and successful entry into the workforce. For practitioners interested in creating their own community-based organization, the brief provides features of an effective community-based organization program, such as effective assessment and partnerships/cross-systems collaboration.

Leveraging the Power of After-School and Summer Learning for Student Success (2013: Expanding Minds and Opportunities)

This article contains research studies, reports, essays, and commentaries by researchers, educators, community leaders, policy makers, and practitioners on after-school and summer learning programs, and it discusses their benefits for and impacts on students, families, schools, and communities.

Wraparound Services: An NEA Policy Brief (2013: National Education Association)

This policy brief examines the benefits of community schools, such as their ability to solve problems faced by students and their families. The brief also makes recommendations for local- level actors, state-level actors, and federal-level actors, and addresses concerns about funding.