University at Albany

Safe Schools/Healthy Students Evaluation

The U.S. Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Justice awarded the City School District of Albany (CSDA) a competitive $6 million grant to support school-based mental health and juvenile justice services. CHSR assisted the CSDA in writing the grant, designed and continues to execute the program evaluations, and developed and continues to maintain a data management system.

The Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) initiative in Albany is known as A-PLUS (Albany Partnership for Learning and Uniting Services). A-PLUS is designed to improve academic outcomes by reorganizing and expanding high quality, comprehensive school and community-based services so that students may learn, live, and prosper in safe and supportive environments.

Under the SS/HS initiative, school districts must partner with local agencies to implement a comprehensive, community-wide plan. The plan includes the implementation of new full-service mental health clinics at Albany High School and North Albany Academy, and select services focusing on the following five elements:

  • Safe school environments and violence prevention activities
  • Alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention activities
  • Student behavioral, social, and emotional supports
  • Mental health services
  • Early childhood social and emotional learning programs

Evaluation & Research

CHSR designed and implemented the Safe Schools/Healthy Students evaluation protocol. Using multiple methods of data collection and analysis, the evaluation is designed to ensure that evidence-based programs are delivered with fidelity. All major stakeholders contribute data to provide a comprehensive picture of program strengths and weaknesses. Evaluators synthesize information and report findings to a local SS/HS Board and Steering Committee. Documentation of effective practices and procedures will help sustain A-PLUS beyond the four years of grant funding.

Evaluations of existing full-service school models demonstrate positive impacts on student, family, school, and community well-being. Benefits to students include more positive attitudes and behaviors, increased access to services, and earlier identification of needs. Families benefit from reduced stress. Full service schools are safer and show improved test scores. Finally, communities experience reduced crime and violence and more cost-effective and timely services due to better interagency communication.

Program Development

CHSR prepared the successful grant application following an extensive community needs assessment. CHSR convened a planning committee consisting of representatives from the school district; the Albany County Department for Children, Youth & Families; the Albany County Department of Probation; the Albany Police Department; Families Together in Albany County; the Department of Youth and Workforce Services; Parsons Child & Family Center; the University at Albany; and parents and students.

Dr. Kenneth Robin, Senior Research Scientist and SSW Assistant Research Professor, serves on the A-PLUS Core Management Team and Advisory Board. This level of involvement facilitates an ongoing feedback loop that informs service modifications and improvements. Dr. Robin is also involved with other CSDA grant programs and initiatives, which helps improve service coordination and integration. Strengthening ties between A-PLUS and existing district and community programs promotes a comprehensive and sustainable network of child and family supports.

Systems & Software Development

CHSR designed a customized web-based Management Information System (MIS) to track services offered at two school-based mental health clinics. Students and families receive both group and individual services from staff that includes a clinical social worker, behavior specialist, parent partner, and youth advocate. Clinic activities are tracked so that individual, family, and group histories can be compiled, and providers can review both the nature and intensity of services delivered. The Safe Schools/Healthy Students MIS includes automated reporting features and is linked to relevant student data in PowerSchool, the primary source of student information used by the city schools.

Contact: Rose Greene