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Children and Families First: An Evaluation of the Philadelphia Say Yes to Education Program

This report is an evaluation of the Say Yes to Education program cohort of students in Philadelphia beginning in the fall of 2002. This cohort started kindergarten as Say Yes students. All but a few were in the third grade when the evaluation began. This evaluation examines the effect and the outcomes of the program on children and their families. The evaluation used a mixed-method research design that includes 18 months of qualitative data collection (observations, interviews, and focus groups of program participants and school personnel). The quantitative analysis is based on one year of performance data on student outcomes. The findings suggest that at the end of one year, this cohort of Say Yes students were performing better than their peers on standardized tests for math and reading as well as on other indicators such as attendance and behavior. The authors posit that three interrelated factors, including viewing children and families holistically, and working with them to build caring and trusting relationships, partially account for these findings and for the programs’ success in engaging children and families in education. The findings also indicate the challenges that Say Yes, like many other community based organizations, encounter as they work in schools. The overall success of the Say Yes program could serve as a model for many urban teachers and school personnel.