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Social Capitalists

Citizen Schools

Boston, Massachusetts

CEO: Eric Schwarz

Previous winner: 2004

What it does: Citizen Schools runs after-school programs at 24 schools in 13 cities, staffed mostly by about 2,000 volunteer architects, attorneys, journalists, and other professionals who use their passions to inspire students. In 10-week apprenticeships, students work with volunteers to create market-quality products, such as Web sites. The group hopes to expand to 100 schools and 8,000 volunteers within five years.

Results: Among more than 900 participants tracked in one study, 70% of eighth graders enrolled in a college-track high school, compared with 46% of those in a control group.

Social impact: B
Aspiration and growth: A-
Entrepreneurship: A-
Innovation: B+
Sustainability: B+

Winner's Statement

Citizen Schools believes it's time. It's time we re-imagine education in America by engaging whole communities in the learning process. It's time we caught young people at the critical inflection point of early adolescence, when the gap between the educational haves and have-nots widens dramatically. It's time we extended education beyond the classroom and beyond the typical school day to include real and rigorous learning opportunities outside school. It's time we grew the number of high quality organizations working with schools and communities to increase young people's access to the American Dream.

While strides have been made in improving educational outcomes for younger, elementary school students, older students have lagged behind. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveals a persistent underperformance in the higher grades. Graduation rates, according to well-respected and at times highly publicized studies, are embarrassingly low (roughly 72 percent nationally, 50 percent in low-income areas) and often under-reported. This glaring failure undermines the strength of our communities and the future of our economy and our democracy.

Citizen Schools believes that strong after-school education programs that work with students in the middle grades leading into high school have unique potential to change students' academic trajectories. If linked effectively with innovative high schools, these programs can offer reliable "pipelines" of students who have the skills and support they will need to stay on track – and graduate on time.

Citizen Schools was founded in Boston in 1995 and now operates a national network of after-school education programs for students in the middle grades (6th, 7th and 8th). Our programs complement in-school classroom learning by engaging students in two specific learning activities outside school.

First, dedicated time after-school (60-90 minutes) for students to complete their homework and work on activities that build organizational and study skills, which will help them navigate their education through high school, graduation and beyond. Students are supported by a staff of full-time, trained professional educators, many of whom are enrolled in our pioneering National Teaching Fellowship. The Fellowship is a first-of-its-kind leadership development program specifically designed for professionals in after-school education.

Second, we mobilize people from businesses, civic institutions and communities to get off the sidelines and participate in education. We train these volunteers, whom we call "Citizen Teachers," to teach "youth apprenticeships" in subjects they know best—their own professional or life experience. Youth apprenticeships, taught in 90-minute sessions twice a week for 11 weeks each academic semester, are fun, engaging hands-on learning projects that emphasize a broader set of skills necessary for success in the modern economy: leadership, oral communication, teamwork and technology. Each apprenticeship allows students to be producers; they work collaboratively to build solar cars, litigate mock trials, publish children's books, manage stock portfolios, organize public health campaigns, design urban parks, test water quality, publish newspapers and magazines, launch websites, and much, much more.

Early evidence suggests that Citizen Schools' blend of real-world, experiential learning and academic support is getting promising results. A multi-year, independent, matched comparison group study of 1,000 students in Boston Public Schools conducted by Washington, DC-based research firm Policy Studies Associates, finds that participants in the program are performing better academically in middle school, enrolling in better high schools, and outperforming their peers in 9th grade math and English grades.

Citizen Schools currently serves 2,000 students at 22 school-based campuses in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas. Our diverse mix of volunteers, funders and communities are committed to helping us expand our leadership in the growing field of after-school education. We plan to run over 80 program sites in 40 communities by 2010.

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The above Winner's Statement was provided by the profiled organization.