The term “wraparound services” came into prominence in connection with the Harlem Children’s Zone. Supporters claimed that the approach resulted in better outcomes than those posted by schools elsewhere with similar populations. But a new study calls into question their benefits (“Current research finds little impact of wraparound services on student learning,” Education Next, Summer 2019).
More specifically, the study found that although attitudes about school and relationships with adults and peers improved, there was no evidence of improved student achievement. That’s not to say that affective outcomes aren’t important. On the contrary, they are often more lasting. But schools primarily exist to teach knowledge and skills. If they cannot produce evidence that they are achieving their objective in this area, taxpayers will be reluctant to support them.
Further, although graduation rates at treatment schools increased, they did not improve more than at comparison schools. That datum alone is telling because graduation rates will always rise if standards are sufficiently lowered. It’s time to ask why wraparound services have not resulted in far better results. Until the answer is forthcoming, it’s too soon to jump to conclusions about their worth.
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