The Loving Cities Index Framework

Loving Cities are created by having a system of local and state policies and practices that provide all children and families with:

The Index framework draws from the wisdom of communities and a strong research base to identify 24 indicators that represent supports associated with academic and economic success. These indicators reflect key city policies and practices needed to provide care, stability, commitment and capacity, and ultimately provide all students with the healthy living and learning environments where they can learn. The Schott Foundation believes that, by prioritizing these measures, over time cities can significantly accelerate educational outcomes, particularly for students of color.

Thermometer vs. Thermostat

When we look at a thermometer, we can see what the current temperature in the room is, but we have no way of adjusting it. A thermostat is the tool that can change the temperature; “moving the dial” on the thermostat if the room is too cold will increase the flow of heat to the room until the temperature reaches the desired level.

As such, the indicators measured in the Loving Cities Index are what we call “thermostat” support indicators, and reflect a shift away from focusing on “thermometer” indicators. “Thermometer” indicators are community level outcome indicators like high school graduation, post-secondary attainment, poverty and unemployment, which are important to look at, but can be difficult to interpret or move the needle on because they only provide a static snapshot of the existing community climate. “Thermostat” support indicators provide insight on the various inputs or supports that are available to manipulate or change the existing community-level climate or outcomes. Thermostat indicators are more active and provide clear focus for creating positive change that will ultimately impact the “thermometer” measures of outcomes. The Loving Cities Index shifts focus to “thermostat” indicators to help communities set clear goals and track progress.

The State Of Loving Systems: A 10-City Profile

The Schott Foundation studied 10 cities using the Loving Cities Index to assess the systems of supports in place at the local and state levels to provide children with an opportunity to learn. To do this, the Schott Foundation and its research partners collected data for and scored 24 indicators that make up a system of supports and for which public data was consistently available. Each indicator represents access to a critical support with a known connection to student academic success.* For each indicator, a city can earn up to three points for levels of access to that support, and when data disaggregated by race is available, cities can earn up to three more points for equity in access across racial groups.

The 10 cities on average have 42% of the supports needed to be a Loving City as measured by this Index (ranging from 34% to 52%). This mid-range of scores suggests that there are policies and practices in place across these cities to provide access to some supports, but there are still significant gaps in delivering the full system of supports that are needed for all students to thrive. This is a trend that we predict will be seen in most cities around the country servicing large number of poor and young people of color. The 10 cities overall have under half of the supports for Care and Stability, indicating large gaps in availability of supports outside of classrooms that enable students to come to school ready and able to learn. Similarly, we measure just under half of the supports for Commitment in schools, while the system is providing only a third of the Capacity supports needed for schools to adequately serve their students.

Next: National Overview of Access to Supports >

* See Literature Review section for overview of research on the set of indicators and Methodology section for details on approach to scoring.