Amid modest increases in high school graduation rates for all students, disparities still exist for important student groups, such as students of color and students from low-income families. In response to this equity issue, there has been a growth in third-party “school support” organizations like Urban Assembly. Since 1997, Urban Assembly has supported New York City schools with the mission to improve all students’ economic and social mobility, with a focus on “meeting students where they are,” even when they enter high school performing below grade level.
Under contract with the New York City Department of Education, in the 2019–2020 school year, Urban Assembly supported 23 “unscreened” schools serving roughly 9,000 middle and high school students throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Urban Assembly provides their schools with professional development to school-based staff using two formats: professional learning communities (PLCs) and coaching. They also offer schools five main program areas of support: academic, leadership, social emotional learning, postsecondary readiness, and alumni success.
Despite the significant monetary investment in school support organizations, such as Urban Assembly, there is limited peer-reviewed research on their effectiveness. This study aims to fill that gap and yield lessons for other school support organizations on best practices. Additionally, this study will evaluate the effects of the Urban Assembly school support network on the academic and socio-emotional outcomes of students, as well as apply the most rigorous causal approach to understanding what works to improve their outcomes.