From the CEO
When does a school cost become an investment?
That’s a question we answer in an exciting case study of two of our Washington Heights community schools. Developed with The Finance Project, “Measuring Social Return on Investment for Community Schools” is designed to help educators and administrators across the country begin to measure and communicate the social and economic value of this proven school reform strategy.
As you know, community schools make a major contribution to student academic achievement, children’s social and emotional health, family participation and community engagement—in districts around the country and the world. Still, we face daunting challenges as we try to scale this proven model to achieve widespread impact, especially when resources are constrained and the effectiveness of investments is under increased scrutiny.
That’s why we’re thrilled with our results.
Applying our SROI methodology showed that every dollar invested in programs and supports at our Washington Heights elementary school yielded a $10.30 return on investment. Dollars at this school were invested in the instructional program, early childhood services, parent engagement, after-school and summer enrichment, and medical, dental and social services.
At the intermediate school level, the return was even greater: $14.80 for every dollar invested in similar supports.
At least 50 U.S. cities have created systems of community schools, serving an estimated 5.1 million students. Over the past decade, community schools here in New York City and across the country have been shown to improve academic achievement, increase parent engagement, boost student and teacher attendance and increase graduation rates. These gains are particularly critical in poor and severely disadvantaged neighborhoods, where the academic achievement gap is more pronounced than it has been in decades.
Using the SROI methodology, we can now show that community schools avoid the costs of bad outcomes, such as students repeating a grade and overuse of emergency rooms for routine medical care. We can also document the social and economic value of positive outcomes, such as children reading at grade level and high school graduation.
We know these gains can help make the case for community schools, so we are sharing our methodology in a practical guide for school leaders everywhere.
Together, the case study and guide tell a clear and compelling story: When we apply the best available knowledge about children’s learning and healthy development and bring together the best resources of schools and communities, we can achieve a solid return on investment.