Chicago Public Schools Sustainable Community Schools Evaluation

High school student giving presentation to class

The Sustainable Community Schools (SCS) strategy is designed to support students, their families, and the broader school community. Through the strategy, schools receive additional resources to enhance their capacity to meet the needs of students and their families and to help teachers provide engaging, challenging, and culturally relevant instruction.

Like other community schools initiatives administered by Chicago Public Schools, the strategy also emphasizes creating partnerships among district schools, community-based organizations, and providers to enhance the flow of resources into schools. The strategy is unique, however, in its mission to enhance school day instruction and supports, including a focus on cultivating the use of a challenging and culturally relevant curriculum and the adoption of restorative justice practices to address disciplinary incidents and misconduct.

A key requirement of the strategy is that participating schools identify the needs and assets of the school community and provide high-quality programming and services that address these needs. Within this broader vision, schools must put in place certain elements to achieve long-term success:

  • Strategic and consistent implementation of activities that are aligned under a shared vision;
  • Comprehensive learning supports and opportunities for students and families;
  • Authentic opportunities for transparent and shared decision making;
  • Strategic use of community resources; and
  • Supports for teachers to enhance their instruction.

AIR’s Work

In partnership with the diverse stakeholders, AIR determined:

  • The degree to which the strategy is aligned with the essential elements listed above;
  • Whether the model is being implemented with fidelity; and
  • How the strategy affects students, their families, school staff, and the broader school community.

AIR conducted both an impact and implementation evaluation of the SCS strategy, beginning in 2021. As part of this work, AIR analyzed data and conduct interviews and focus groups to:

  • Assess the impact the SCS has on participating students and families;
  • Understand the extent to which the activities and services funded through the strategy align with the key components of the SCS logic model; and
  • Understand implementation of the SCS initiative at each school, as well as perceptions of how it affects students and families.