What’s Informing Our Thinking

Progress Through Partnership: Hartford Community Schools Evaluation Report 2015-2016

Authors: Eoin Collins, Muamer Rasic, and Dana Taplin, ActKnowledge, New York, NY, August 2017

This external evaluation report outlines the key findings from the fourth year of a long-term study of a seven-site community schools initiative in Hartford, Connecticut—a citywide effort overseen by the Hartford Partnership for Student Success (HPSS).  Four key organizations (Hartford Public Schools, Hartford Mayor’s Office, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut) formed HPSS several years ago as co-planners and co-investors, and have since been joined by other investors, including the Aetna and Hartford Insurance Companies, two major local philanthropies. 

This most recent evaluation report highlights several key findings:

  • Rates of chronic absence fell in the five Hartford community schools (HCS) where the rates had been highest.
  • Days absent declined for cohorts of students in two HCS that had received mental health supports or where there was intensive engagement with the students’ parents.
  • Participants in the after-school program (a key component of the community school model in Hartford) did better on Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) scores in both reading and math than other students. 
  • Even more impressive, according to the evaluation team, was the strong academic performance of those students who persisted in after-school programs over time.  There was a significantly higher increase in MAP scores in reading and math for students who participated in the after-school program for three or four consecutive years compared to those who participated for less than two years. 
  • MAP results for cohorts of academically “at-risk” students connected to programs or services targeted at their needs also showed strong improvement, and this improvement was even greater for those students who had participated consistently in these services over time. 
  • The most successful intervention to address behavioral issues among particular groups of students was mental health supports.

The authors note several factors that have contributed to another successful implementation year in this initiative, including: the capacity and intentionality of the HCS and the community school directors in using data to identify the needs of vulnerable cohorts of students, matching these students with appropriate services, and tracking results; the inclusive approach of the community school model that involves multi-sectoral partners at each level of the system; and the long-term commitment of the initiative’s major investors.