The Community Schools Initiative (CSI) began in 2001 when a group of corporate and philanthropic leaders proposed that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) establish school–community partnerships through a public–private venture. This led to an initial cohort of 20 schools that were partnered with arts, youth development, community, and social service organizations to offer a range of youth and adult programming. By 2010, the CSI had expanded to include 154 schools and more than 400 partner agencies.
The CPS Community Schools Model (CSM) was developed out of this initiative and was designed to help guide effective collaborations between schools and partnering organizations. The model stipulates that a school work with a lead partner agency (LPA) that has at least three years of experience in youth and adult programming. The school and the LPA must agree on a vision and be willing to make changes necessary for an effective collaboration. With the help of a full-time resource coordinator, the school and the LPA work to develop a range of youth and adult programming, which typically includes afterschool and weekend activities, sports and recreation, arts and cultural activities, and other enrichment activities. Programs for adults often include classes in parenting, career education, nutrition, and English as a second language. On-site medical and dental services also are offered by some community schools.
In 2011, CPS contracted with AIR and its partner Diehl Evaluation and Consulting Services, Inc. (Diehl Consulting) to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the CSM. The evaluation, which began in 2011 and will continue to 2014, will develop locally valid and reliable measures of the level and quality of implementation of the CSM and will use these measures to analyze program effectiveness.
The evaluation will be conducted in three phases: (1) developing and testing measures of CSM implementation using the recently developed Implementation and Sustainability Process Strategy (ISPS) as a framework for specifying the steps that schools should take in implementing the CSM; (2) using the measures that are developed to assess CSM implementation and to develop a set of ISPS rubrics to support new and existing CSI schools in addressing each component of the ISPS framework; and (3) assessing the impact of these rubrics. In developing measures of CSM implementation, AIR and Diehl Consulting will develop, pilot, and refine a set of large-scale surveys of lead partner agencies, principals, teachers, resource coordinators, and out-of-school program staff to identify factors that contribute to effective school–community partnerships and effective youth and adult programming. The evaluation will provide CPS with detailed information about the CSM, including a rubric and a series of survey measures to inform the district and schools about how well individual schools are implementing the program and whether information from the rubric is useful in helping schools follow the model.