During the 2013-14 school year, Children’s Home + Aid’s Community Schools program served over 1,000 elementary school children at 9 schools on the west and south sides of Chicago.  For at least two hours daily after school, Community Schools provided academic help and enrichment activities including sports, dance, and theatre.

How did Community Schools achieve results for kids? In the fall of 2013, only 12% of children in the agency’s Community Schools programs were reading at a level that met or exceeded Illinois state standards.  In addition to being behind state standards, children served by Community Schools were behind their own classmates. In the fall of 2013, children in the same schools that were not enrolled  in Children’s Home + Aid after-school programming scored higher on reading tests.1


Although Community School students started further behind,  after a year of participation they were reading at a higher level than their classmates. Across the 9 schools, all students on average improved their reading over the course of the 2013-14 academic year.  However, Community Schools students improved at a faster rate than their classmates who did not participate.  

How do we know this? Children’s Home + Aid has an innovative collaboration with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago in which Chapin Hall provides the agency a wealth of outcome data on children that participate and, crucially, data on children that do not participate in its programs.


Why is this result important? Reading is a core component of learning and crucial for long-term academic success.  Recent research on 26,000 students in Chicago Public Schools showed that students who read at or above grade level in third grade are far more likely to graduate high school and attend college, implying that the reading gains shown by Community Schools students will have an impact for many years to come.2

Notes: (1) Reading results are from the NWEA MAP reading test, administered by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in fall 2013 and spring 2014.  For fall, n=25 (CH+A fall), n=44 (non-CH+A fall), n=523(CH+A spring) , n=329 (non-CH+A spring).  The smaller fall sample is because 2013-14 was the first school year during which CPS administered the NWEA MAP.  As such, CPS selected only a sample of students to complete the test in fall 2013.  By spring of 2014, many more students completed NWEA MAP. (2) Lesnick, J., George, R.M., Smithgall, C., Gwynne, J. (2010). Reading on grade level in third grade: How is it related to high school performance and college enrollment? Chapin Hall