Focusing on the Whole Student: Final Report on the Massachusetts Wraparound Zones
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Wraparound Zones (WAZ) Initiative is designed to create coordinated district systems that allow schools to proactively and systematically address students’ nonacademic needs. AIR's evaluation of the initiative found that students in WAZ schools experienced greater gains in English language arts and math achievement than students in similar schools that did not receive the grant. These effects were significant after two and three years of implementation for English language arts and after two years of implementation for math. Gains were particularly strong in the grades 3 and 4 for limited English proficient students—equivalent to nearly a full year of achievement gains one would expect to see for a typical fourth grade student, according to AIR’s evaluation.
The four WAZ priority improvement areas follow:
- Climate and culture. Each participating school creates a climate and a culture that promote mental health and positive social, emotional, and intellectual growth for students, resulting in a new standard of practice understood and practiced by every member of the school community.
- Identification of student needs and efforts to address them. Each participating school implements a proactive system of identifying student needs in key academic and nonacademic areas, leading to both universal supports and targeted interventions.
- Community coalitions. Each participating school integrates a range of resources to tailor student services from within both the school and the larger community. The range of services includes prevention, enrichment, early intervention, and intensive crisis response services.
- District systems of support. Each participating district develops district-level systems to support the communication, collaboration, evaluation, and continuous improvement of the WAZ initiative.
AIR's evaluation explored how well the WAZ initiative achieved these goals. Research assessed progress on planning, implementation, outcomes, sustainability, and replication related to the initiative’s four priority improvement areas. This evaluation report provides results from an impact analysis focused on answering the following research question: What are the outcomes associated with WAZ implementation?
Using a comparative interrupted time series design, AIR researchers examined whether, when compared to non-WAZ schools and controlling for selected background characteristics, students in WAZ schools experienced better academic outcomes, attendance, retention rates, and suspension rates.