The Biden administration on Tuesday unveiled a new public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, AmeriCorps, and Johns Hopkins University to help students recover and thrive after the impacts of COVID-19. The National Partnership for Student Success, announced at the White House by domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, will bring together local, state, and national education and service organizations to partner with schools to provide evidence-based student supports.
The goal is to add as many as 250,000 additional tutors, mentors, school success coaches, post-secondary transition advisers, and wrap-around support coordinators over the next three years to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student academic success and well-being.
The partnership was announced at a White House event featuring Rice; Miguel A. Cardona, U.S. secretary of education; Michael D. Smith, AmeriCorps CEO; Robert Balfanz, Johns Hopkins School of Education professor and director of the Everyone Graduates Center; and Gene Sperling, senior adviser to the president and American Rescue Plan coordinator.
The Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Education—which combines analysis, research, and resources to keep students on the path to high school graduation—will serve as the support hub for the National Partnership of Student Success. It will organize technical assistance efforts; work with the U.S. Department of Education and AmeriCorps and leading youth-serving organizations to increase the supply of high-quality tutors, mentors, and other student support providers; establish voluntary standards of practice; and work to connect school districts with local providers of evidence-based student supports.
"Our schools are facing a seemingly unending set of challenges," says Balfanz. "They are dealing with staff shortages, continued COVID-19 disruptions, chronic absenteeism, a soaring student mental health crisis, and a vast shortages of substitute teachers."
The impact has been heart-wrenching: During the last two years, rates of chronic absenteeism, a leading indicator of dropout risk, have increased and course failures have risen. For the first time in 15 years, high school graduation rates are down in most states. Record numbers of students are also reporting mental health needs.
"There are evidence-based solutions that can help right now, but they require more 'people power' in schools," Balfanz says. "With the National Partnership for Student Success, we will be bringing trained, supported, and vetted adults from organizations with deep education and wellness expertise to work side by side with principals, teachers, and counselors to get the right support to the students who need it most and to enable more students to have the supportive relationships that keep them connected to school."
The NPSS will recruit capable, trainable volunteers from existing programs by partnering with university work-study programs to engage students in community-service roles rather than campus jobs, enlisting corporations and large public employers to enable more employees to engage in community service, and working through large youth-servicing organizations, such as the YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and the United Way. The partnership will provide training for current volunteers to have evidence-based roles to serve students.
Christopher Morphew, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Education, applauded the partnership. "The emphasis on proven strategies will connect schools with the best practices and expertise, along with thousands of individuals working toward student success in our communities," he said.