Restart SMART Initiative Evaluation

Diverse multigenerational family together outside

School districts around the country are increasingly looking to community schools as models to both respond to ongoing youth and family needs made more poignant by the COVID-19 pandemic and as a platform for providing opportunities for positive youth development that accelerate equitable student outcomes in education, health, and employment.

Both the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) and the Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) have embraced the promise of community schools in meeting the needs of youth and families in the Tucson, Arizona, community, partnering with Higher Ground, a community-based organization serving as the lead partner in instantiating the community school model in each district.

To support these efforts, Higher Ground applied for ARP ESSER funding from the Arizona Department of Education to implement a community school initiative called Restart SMART (strategic, mindful, agile, resilient, and trauma-responsive) in five schools associated with TUSD and SUSD. The core components of the Restart SMART initiative include: (1) social and emotional triage and skill development; (2) intervention and support services for families in crisis; and (3) connection of youth and families to prevention-oriented supports and opportunities through leveraged partnerships with community-based organizations. 

AIR's Assessment and Evaluations 

AIR is conducting two primary evaluation activities:

  1. An assessment of Higher Ground’s current data collection and reporting infrastructure and processes to make recommendations to improve accuracy, efficiency, relevance, and utility of how data are collected and used; and
  2. An implementation and effectiveness evaluation of the ARP ESSER-funded community school initiative underway in TUSD and SUSD schools. Both activities are intended to evaluate the Restart SMART initiative, support the scalability of its community school model, and inform continuous improvement efforts.  

The implementation evaluation is designed to describe the activities and services provided through implementation of the Restart SMART initiative, those served through the initiative, the progress made in instantiating key community school structures in Restart SMART schools, and notable facilitating factors and challenges associated with implementation efforts.

The accompanying effectiveness and outcome evaluation examines how students receiving case management supports through the Restart SMART Initiative improve on key school-related outcomes compared to similar students from districts not enrolled in the Restart SMART Initiative. AIR is also examining whether school climate and culture were potentially influenced from implementation of the Restart SMART strategy at different schools.  

AIR is working collaboratively with Higher Ground staff throughout the planning, data collection, and dissemination phases to ensure that findings are communicated to a range of stakeholders, including leaders, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers.