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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Program Description

Overview Citizen Schools (CS) operates a national network of apprenticeship programs for middle school students that connects adult volunteers to youth in hands-on afterschool learning projects. The CS programs are designed to help youth develop academic and leadership skills needed to succeed in school, get into college, and become leaders in their careers and in their communities.
Start Date 1995
Scope national
Type afterschool
Location urban
Setting public school
Participants middle school students (grades 6–8)
Number of Sites/Grantees 30 sites in 2006–2007 nationwide; 37 sites nationwide (2009–2010)
Number Served approximately 3,000 in 2006–2007 nationwide; approximately 4,000 nationwide (2009–2010)
Components Twice a week after school, CS youth participate in apprenticeships, which consist of hands-on learning projects led by volunteer Citizen Teachers. Apprentices work collaboratively in small groups to build solar cars, litigate mock trials, publish children's books, and so on. On other weekday afternoons, CS staff lead structured afterschool activities to enhance school success of youth, working on homework and building organizational and study skills to help youth navigate their education through high school, graduation, and beyond. Each semester culminates in “WOW!”—a public presentation of the CS participants’ projects.

In 2001–2002, CS launched its 8th Grade Academy program in Boston for eighth graders who began CS in a prior year. In addition to offering activities similar to those at other CS campuses, 8th Grade Academy is intended to help youth apply to and succeed in competitive high schools and to introduce them to the college application process through experiential learning activities that build academic and life skills and give youth access to coaches, technology, internships, and other educational programs. Each participant is assigned a writing coach (typically a local lawyer). In 2004, CS launched an alumni program to support Academy graduates during the high school transition period.
Funding Level approximately $20.9 million in 2009–2010
Funding Sources Major funders include ArcLight Capital Partners, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bank of America, Josh & Anita Bekenstein, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Koogle Foundation, The Lovett-Woodsum Foundation, The Picower Foundation, The Samberg Family Foundation, Skoll Foundation, AmeriCorps, State of North Carolina Department of Social Servies, Boston Public Schools, Duke Endowment, Houston Independent School District, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and many other individual, corporate, and philanthropic donors.


Overview A 7-year evaluation (2001–2008) focused on the program experiences and outcomes of 5 cohorts of participants at the Boston site.
Evaluators Policy Studies Associates, Inc.
Evaluations Profiled Evidence from Two Student Cohorts on the Use of Community Resources to Promote Youth Development: Phase II Report

Putting Students on a Pathway to Academic and Social Success: Phase III Findings

Preparing Students in the Middle Grades to Succeed in High School: Findings from Phase IV

Progress Toward High School Graduation: Youth Outcomes in Boston

Achieving High School Graduation: Citizen Schools’ Youth Outcomes in Boston
Evaluations Planned Citizen Schools is proceeding with a new evaluation plan in which Abt Associates Inc. and Public/Private Ventures will serve as external evaluators.
Report Availability Fabiano, L., Espino, J., & Reisner, E. R., with Pearson, L. M. (2003). Citizen Schools: Using community resources to promote youth development. Phase I Report of the Citizen Schools evaluation. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates. Available at:

Espino, J., Fabiano, L., & Pearson, L. M. (with Kirkwood K. P., Afolabi, K., & Pasatta, K.). (2004). Citizen Schools: Evidence from two student cohorts on the use of community resources to promote youth development. Phase II report of the Citizen Schools evaluation. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates.

Fabiano, L., Pearson, L. M., & Williams, I. J. (2005). Putting students on a pathway to academic and social success: Phase III findings of the Citizen Schools evaluation. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates. Available at:

Fabiano, L., Pearson, L. M., Reisner, E. R., & Williams, I. J. (2006). Preparing students in the middle grades to succeed in high school: Findings from Phase IV of the Citizen Schools evaluation. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates. Available at:

Pearson, L. M., Vile, J. D., & Reisner, E. R. (2008). Establishing a foundation for progress
toward high school graduation: Findings from Phase V of the Citizen Schools
. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates. Available at:

Vile, J. D., Arcaira, E., & Reisner, E. R. (2009). Progress toward high school graduation: Citizen Schools’ youth outcomes in Boston. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates. Available at:

Arcaira, E., Vile, J. D., & Reisner, E. R. (2010). Achieving high school graduation: Citizen Schools’ youth outcomes in Boston. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates. Available at:


Evaluation Erikson Arcaira
Research Associate
Policy Studies Associates, Inc.
1718 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-939-5343
Fax: 202-939-5732
Program Michael Kubiak
Director of Research and Evaluation
Citizen Schools
308 Congress Street, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02210
Tel: 617-695-2300 ext. 132
Fax: 617-695-2367
Profile Updated May 9, 2011

Evaluation 3: Preparing Students in the Middle Grades to Succeed in High School: Findings from Phase IV

Evaluation Description

Evaluation Purpose To analyze program impacts on former participants’ school engagement and academic achievement in 9th and 10th grades over time.
Evaluation Design Quasi-Experimental: Data were collected on 8th Grade Academy youth who attended Boston Public Schools (BPS) in one of four cohorts: Year 1 (2001–2002) through Year 4 (2004–2005). Each participant was matched to 3 nonparticipants who attended BPS, based on five core matching variables: gender, race, grade in school, free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) eligibility, and grade 4 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test scores in math and English language arts (ELA). When possible, youth were also matched on school attended, and bilingual/special education status. With the exception of constants like grade 4 MCAS scores, these data were based on the year prior to each youth’s participation in the evaluation. Each participant’s 3 matches were ranked based on how similar they were to the participant on the matching criteria. Participants were compared to their most similar nonparticipant. Matched nonparticipants and participants were similar on all matching criteria. A participant’s matched nonparticipant sometimes changed from year to year; the second or third most similar match sometimes had to be used when a matched nonparticipant left the BPS system or was not promoted on schedule.

Between Years 1 and 4, 354 youth participated in 8th Grade Academy and had parental consent to be included in the evaluation; 48 participated in Year 1, 85 in Year 2, 118 in Year 3, and 103 in Year 4. To be included in the analyses, youth had to be promoted to grade 9 at the end of the year in which they participated in 8th Grade Academy; 97% of the sample did so. Grade 9 promotion did not vary significantly by class year nor between participants and nonparticipants. Analyses focused on former 8th Grade Academy youth as they transitioned to high school and progressed through grades 9 and 10. Youth with high and low CS-exposure levels were compared to their matched nonparticipants. High exposure was defined as 2 or more years of CS participation at an attendance rate of 60% or more each semester for all semesters. Low exposure was defined as not meeting these criteria. Of former 8th Grade Academy participants, 49% were classified as high exposure. Exposure level differences are presented only when they are statistically significant.
Data Collection Methods Secondary Source/Data Review: BPS and four Boston-area charter schools provided data on student achievement (MCAS scores and course grades), demographics, and school performance (e.g., attendance, high school choices). For the measure of high school choices, BPS high schools were classified as high, medium, or low quality. CS encouraged 8th Grade Academy graduates to attend high- or medium-quality schools. In classifying schools, CS considered school size, MCAS scores, percent of graduates attending college or postsecondary training, attendance, dropout rates, grade 9 retention, reputation, and relationship with CS (since an existing partnership would help CS track participants and support them through high school).

Test/Assessments: MCAS is a standardized test required by Massachusetts public schools. Results are reported as scaled scores and performance levels, defined as follows: Advanced, has a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of rigorous subject matter and provides sophisticated solutions to complex problems; Proficient, has a solid understanding of challenging subject matter and solves a wide variety of problems; Needs Improvement, has a partial understanding of subject matter and solves some simple problems; and Warning, has a minimal understanding of subject matter and does not solve simple problems.
Data Collection Timeframe Data covered the 2001–2002 academic year (Year 1) through the 2004–2005 academic year (Year 4).

Summative/Outcome Findings

Academic Former 8th Grade Academy participants selected high-quality high schools at a significantly higher rate than their matched nonparticipants, overall (65% vs. 26%, p < .001) and among both the high-exposure (65% vs. 22%) and the low-exposure (64% vs. 31%) groups.

Former 8th Grade Academy participants attended school at significantly higher rates in their ninth grade year than matched nonparticipants (87% vs. 82%, p < .05), for a difference of approximately 9 days of school.

Former 8th Grade Academy youth with high exposure (but not overall) had significantly lower suspension rates in their ninth grade year than matched nonparticipants (1% vs. 10%, p < .01).

Former 8th Grade Academy participants had significantly better (p < .05) grade 9 English course grades than matched nonparticipants, both overall and among the high exposure group. They did not significantly differ on average grade 9 math course grades.

Former 8th Grade Academy youth with high exposure (but not overall) were promoted on time to grade 10 at a significantly higher rate than matched nonparticipants (92% vs. 81%, p < .05).

Former 8th Grade Academy participants had significantly higher grade 10 math course grades than matched nonparticipants (p < .05). The two groups did not differ on other grade 10 measures.

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