The School Design & Improvement Division at Compass Academy

Following a core belief that policy and practice must follow evidence, two years ago, City Year and JHU established the School Design & Improvement Division (SD&ID) to design and facilitate the launch of Compass Academy. At Compass Academy, the SD&ID partners with local public education experts to design and develop a learning model which strengthens students’ academic and social-emotional competencies, leads to greater personalization and is replicable to schools across the country.


Leveraging the partnerships between City Year, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, and Compass Academy, the School Design & Improvement Division will develop, test, refine, and disseminate effective practices for high-need urban schools. The School Design & Improvement Division and its partners commit to strengthening student self-agency; creating personalized learning environments; promoting cognitive skills, academic behaviors, and emotional resilience; and leveraging the power of national service. Together, we will improve outcomes across our national networks and inform education policy and practices in schools and cities across the country. Why we do this work – we believe that all students deserve pathways to opportunity and that schools must be the primary lever in removing barriers to the pathways, especially in our most marginalized communities.

The School Design & Improvement Division will work to amplify the impact and influence of Compass Academy by:

  • Providing direct supports to Compass Academy, including embedded staff, to enable a successful launch and to support the school’s innovative model.

  • Documenting the evolving design, learnings, and impacts of Compass Academy, including the game-changing role that national service can play in promoting a new school design that responds to the individual needs of every child and counters the pernicious effects of generational poverty.

  • Determining and replicating evidence-based practices applicable to diverse school settings across the country, starting in the 300+ high-need schools in City Year’s and JHU’s networks; and

  • Providing a one-of-a-kind training facility to give City Year’s site leadership and school partners hands-on experience with the full fidelity model and to accelerate their ability to lead implementation and innovation at home.

The Compass Academy-City Year-JHU partnership establishes a broad platform with the potential to inform school design for the 314 schools in the City Year and JHU networks and for practitioners and researchers across the country. The proven capabilities of City Year and JHU to identify and rapidly spread evidence-based best practices, ensures that Compass Academy and the SDD will make an important contribution to field-wide understanding of those practices that are effective both for the most at-risk students and all students.