Students, educators, schools, and families have faced unprecedented challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic and related disruptions to school and everyday life. While school doors are now open, many students are behind, and schools are short-staffed at a time when they are being asked to take on more than ever. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores released in the fall of 2022 indicate significant setbacks, including the largest score drop in reading in over 30 years and the first-ever decline in math scores in the history of the assessment. At the same time, the United States is in the midst of a youth mental health crisis, in part due to social isolation and other adverse impacts of the pandemic. Despite the admirable efforts and perseverance of schools, educators, and families, longstanding inequities and opportunity gaps in education are widening.
These challenges are daunting. But the widespread disruption of the status quo caused by the pandemic, and the unprecedented investment made by the federal government in COVID-19 recovery through the American Rescue Plan, present unique opportunities to rethink the way the country supports students, educators, and schools.
To help schools, youth-serving organizations, and communities navigate this complex set of challenges, the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS) launched at the White House in July alongside a call to action for an additional 250,000 Americans to become tutors, mentors, student success coaches, postsecondary transition coaches, or wraparound/integrated student support coordinators over the next three years. The initiative works to recruit more people into high-impact roles that evidence indicates can accelerate academic learning, reduce chronic absenteeism, and improve student mental health and well-being. It also provides guidance and technical assistance to schools, districts, nonprofits, and local and state governments to implement, expand, and improve programs that leverage employees, volunteers, or AmeriCorps members in these five roles to serve alongside teachers and other education professionals.
A public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, AmeriCorps, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, the NPSS brings together a growing coalition of over 100 organizations committed to getting more people into high-impact roles to support students and schools as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic. The coalition includes national associations representing key stakeholders including teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, boards of education, colleges of education, and more. It also includes a range of national, state, and local youth-serving nonprofit organizations and AmeriCorps programs that partner with schools and communities to support students holistically, both during the school day and during out-of-school time. This partnership focuses on helping schools, educators, nonprofits, and communities connect all students with holistic and people-powered supports that can help them succeed and thrive. In particular, the NPSS focuses on 1) addressing the impacts of lost instructional time and accelerating student learning by increasing the number of people in high-impact student support roles; 2) enhancing school connectedness among adolescents to help improve student mental health and well-being; and 3) supporting school districts and states in using American Rescue Plan and other funding sources to support students through pandemic recovery and beyond by providing technical assistance and guidance.
The NPSS is designed to meet urgent needs that students and schools face today by creating structures through which statewide and community-based student support “hubs” can leverage American Rescue Plan and other funding sources to rapidly accelerate learning and support students and schools. At the same time, the NPSS is working to create pathways toward an education system in the United States that focuses on serving the whole child, fully supports students and educators to thrive, and incorporates the range of settings where students learn, which may extend beyond the school day and building.
The NPSS is also one strategy for increasing the number of people who enter the field of education—allowing them to gain experience working with young people and to pursue teacher preparation programs. National service in education, as well as work in other NPSS-aligned roles, has the potential to create a robust and diverse pipeline of people into the profession who have preservice experience working in schools and other youth-serving environments. Alumni data from City Year indicates that their AmeriCorps members who work as student success coaches are likely to enter the field of education following their national service experience, and of those who become classroom teachers, 85% remain in the profession.
The NPSS has begun work with a range of stakeholder groups to develop a strategy for recruiting an additional 250,000 people into these high-impact roles at a time when recruitment in education is particularly challenging. This involves:
- Partnering with colleges and universities to increase the percentage of federal work-study funding dedicated to placing undergraduate and graduate students in part-time high-impact roles. The aim is to support schools in recruiting, training, and managing these part-time staff, and provide guidance and examples of ways in which colleges can contribute to this work—from for-credit programs to tutoring programs that employ teacher candidates to student and alumni civic engagement clubs.
- Working with large employers to determine how they might incentivize employees to volunteer on a regular basis in high-impact roles—supporting youth in partnership with nonprofits that can provide robust training and ongoing support.
- Collaborating with volunteer organizations that have deep relationships in communities to effectively direct some of the millions of Americans who already volunteer each year into high-impact student support roles.
- Seeking out strategies for involving older Americans in this work, as well as high school seniors.
Good models already exist for how each of these sources of people power can impactfully support students and schools. For instance, the New Jersey Tutoring Corps deploys teacher candidates from The College of New Jersey’s education program in high-impact tutoring roles at Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCAs statewide. In Texas, the Houston Independent School District partners with nonprofit organization iEducate to implement a Student Teacher Corps where high school students and recent alumni tutor youth while receiving experience and training to prepare them to enter educator preparation programs and explore education careers. The University of Memphis Peer Power Foundation places college students in paid roles that also count toward internship credit to serve as student success coaches in Shelby County Schools in Tennessee. Baltimore City Public Schools in Maryland partners with the nonprofit iMentor to engage community members in mentoring programs that support students. The NPSS seeks to lift up examples of innovation and quality programming and provide guidance to support collaborations like these based on locally determined needs in communities around the country.
How to Get Involved in the National Partnership for Student Success
It is key that as this initiative is rolled out, it does not place additional burden on principals, educators, or schools. The NPSS is working to remove barriers to implementation for schools looking to do this work internally, as well as develop clear guidance (to be released in early 2023) to make it easier for principals to find and partner with quality providers of student supports.
Principals and other school leadership can get involved in the work of the NPSS by visiting partnershipstudentsuccess.org, where they’ll find information on free technical assistance offerings to support the design, implementation, expansion, or improvement of programs that involve tutoring, mentoring, student success coaching, postsecondary transition coaching, and/or wraparound/integrated student supports. Over the course of the initial three-year scope of this initiative, the NPSS will release toolkits for school, district, and state education departments to implement high-quality student supports in each of the five focus areas outlined above through use of American Rescue Plan funding and other funding sources.
Kate Cochran is the managing director of the National Partnership for Student Success.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, September 28). School connectedness helps students thrive. cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/school_connectedness.htm
City Year. (2021, November 10). City Year is nurturing diverse future teachers. cityyear.org/national/stories/education/city-year-is-nurturing-diverse-future-teachers
Nadworny, E. (2022, January 13). More than 1 million fewer students are in college. Here’s how that impacts the economy. NPR. npr.org/2022/01/13/1072529477/more-than-1-million-fewer-students-are-in-college-the-lowest-enrollment-numbers-
National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). NAEP long-term trend assessment results: Reading and mathematics. nationsreportcard.gov/highlights/ltt/2022
The White House. (2022, March 1). Fact sheet: President Biden to announce strategy to address our national mental health crisis, as part of unity agenda in his first state of the union. whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/03/01/fact-sheet-president-biden-to-announce-strategy-to-address-our-national-mental-health-crisis-as-part-of-unity-agenda-in-his-first-state-of-the-union