United Way Community Schools Improve Academic Growth and Attendance among Students

Students in United Way Community Schools demonstrated academic growth in every school during the 2022-23 school year, according to the organization’s 2023 Annual Report. Over the course of the school year, the schools reported:

  • 28% more students performing on grade-level in literacy from the beginning to end of the school year (from 32 to 41%), with some schools reporting increases as high as 90%.
  • 56% more students performing on grade-level in math from the beginning to end of the school year (from 16 to 25%), with some schools reporting increases as high as 89%.
  • 30% improvement in student attendance and chronic absence.
  • 124% increase in family engagement.
  • 48% increase in families connected to food assistance.

United Way Community Schools also demonstrated greater growth than the Lehigh Valley region and Pennsylvania between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. While the state and region overall increased third-grade reading proficiency by 3.8% (2.0 percentage points), Community Schools students grew by 9.5% (2.9 percentage points).

“These measures indicate that Community Schools are making a difference.  Ultimately, all the wrap-around supports that are provided by United Way, the school districts and our partners ensure that students learn and grow academically,” remarked Marci Lesko, United Way Chief Operating Officer.

United Way Community Schools serve 19,814 students in 33 public schools in Allentown, Bethlehem Area, Easton Area, Bangor Area and Panther Valley school districts. Two new schools joined the Community Schools network in 2022 and 2023: Ramos Elementary School in Allentown and Panther Valley Elementary School in Nesquehoning.

Community Schools improve academic success by focusing on students’ basic needs and build trusting relationships with children and their families by offering a range of services that include: 

  • basic needs support such as food, clothing, toiletries and school supplies; 
  • connections to critical resources such as healthcare and housing; 
  • academic engagement experiences such as field trips and after-school programming; 
  • parent engagement workshops and activities; and
  • on-site physical, mental and behavioral health services.

During the last school year, one in four students were identified as needing behavioral health supports​ and referrals to health services doubled​. Community Schools connected 81% of students identified as needing support with mental health resources.

“Our goal is 100%​, that every student who needs services is able to access the resources they need. The progress is encouraging, and we have more work to do to remove barriers,” added Lesko.

Funding and support for United Way Community Schools is provided by United Way donors and Community Schools partners including: Air Products, Allentown School District, AMETEK, Dan and Susan Barnes, Bangor Area School District, Bethlehem Area School District, Brown-Daub Family of Dealerships, Capital Blue Cross, City Center Group, Communities In Schools of Eastern Pennsylvania, Crayola, Easton Area School District, Follett Corporation, Just Born Quality Confections, Lehigh University, Bob and Sandy Lovett, Moravian University, Northampton Community College, Northstar Construction, Panther Valley School District, PPL Corp., Bill and Denise Spence, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Topper Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, United Way TeenWorks, United Way Women United and Victaulic.

For more information on United Way Community Schools, click here.