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Examining Systems of Student Support (2018)

Virtually all elementary schools extend their activities beyond regular classroom instruction through varying approaches to and levels of supplemental support. These services are intended to support student learning and may be provided within the school or via referrals to external organizations in the community. While supporting the comprehensive needs of students is a common goal in today’s schools, little is known about the degree to which schools are assessing, addressing, and monitoring the needs and progress of students. City Connects is a program that fosters student success by addressing the comprehensive strengths and needs of all students within a school. In a previous report, the costs and benefits of the City Connects program were evaluated (Bowden et al., 2015). The report found that the benefits of the program exceeded the costs. Additionally, the report showed that the portion of costs financed by schools was roughly 10% of the total costs of the program. A limitation in the evaluation was uncertainty about the extent of resources that would be allocated to student support in the absence of City Connects. 

This report addresses that limitation by focusing on schools that do not have a formalized and systematic approach, like City Connects, to comprehensively address student needs. One finding is that the costs of administrative time spent on student support services in non-program schools are relatively greater than in City Connects schools. These costs are largely related to assessing student needs and in attempting to establish a school-wide approach. However, these higher administrative costs represent a small share of the overall costs of providing comprehensive student support services and of the total costs of school. 

We find non-program schools are not utilizing community-based services as they would if City Connects was part of the school’s approach. There are two major findings of this study that reinforce the original economic evaluation of City Connects. When City Connects is adopted, schools are able to reduce administrator time by relegating much of the burden of assessing, addressing, and managing comprehensive student needs to the City Connects Coordinator. Additionally, adopting an approach like City Connects allows the school to more fully integrate student support within the school’s community and to leverage access to community-based services for students that would not otherwise have been available. The conclusion of the initial report, that the economic benefits of City Connects outweigh the costs of the program, is further supported empirically with more precision.