In 1990 the foundation launched the $5 million School of the Future project, which provided integrated mental health services for lower-income schools in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Foundation staff worked with private and public partners to provide evaluation, research, and technical assistance.
Its premise was that in poor communities, the public school should serve as a center for health and human services as well as for education – an idea then endorsed by the American Psychological Association and being tested in other parts of the country.
In 1995, foundation director Wayne Holtzman reflected on his vision for the project:
Change comes slowly to a community and sometimes only with help. In 1990, the residents of the Dove Springs neighborhood of Austin were becoming increasingly alarmed about the rising crime rate in their neighborhood. School personnel were equally alarmed. They recognized but were unable to meet the extensive health and social service needs of their students, needs which interfered with teaching and detracted from learning.
The city of Austin, meanwhile, was only beginning to become aware that the area lacked amenities that were standard in other parts of town basic amenities such as a library, a recreation center, and a swimming pool. Working independently, however, no one group had been able to obtain the funds or the support required to bring about the needed changes.
That same year, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health was initiating a new project. Called the School of the Future, it was designed to prevent some of today's common problems—drug abuse, school dropouts, teen pregnancy—and to improve the potential for academic success for young children at risk and their families by bringing together an array of health and social services on school campuses.
The unique aspect was to have a project coordinator at each site, a social worker or educator who would be responsible for determining needs, planning programs, working with school administrators and teachers, and establishing links with local service agencies. From the start the Foundation viewed the project as extending beyond one organization's efforts, calling for a constructive partnership between local public and private human service agencies, public school systems, parents, and the community.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of this coordinated approach to school-based services, the Foundation selected as test sites a middle school and one or two feeder elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods in four Texas cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. It set aside one million dollars to support the project.
Additionally, it earmarked an equal amount for an extensive quantitative and qualitative evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the various interventions, their interactions, and their impact on the community. In Austin, Widen and Mendez schools in the Dove Springs community were designated as the pilot site.
The Hogg Foundation funded the School of the Future project from 1990 to 1995. The program focused on providing health services such as counseling and clinics; community activities such as job fairs and social gatherings; student support services such as parenting programs and tutoring; and adult education for families.
The pilot schools found success and continued beyond this initial funding. In 1997, Louise K. Iscoe and Scott S. Kier shared successes and lessons learned about effective mental health program implementations specifically in urban school settings:
- All four of the demonstration sites have continued at least two years beyond initial funding, and all give indications of continuing into the foreseeable future. This indicates, and evaluation survey responses show, that key participants in the School of the Future - school district administrators, coordinators, principals and teachers, service providers, and parents - supported the project and were willing to work to obtain funds so that it could continue
- All four of the coordinators stayed with the project throughout the five-year demonstration grant. In soft-money projects, that is, projects that do not have guaranteed funding, it is rare for administrators to remain for more than a short time. Projects which maintain continuity in key administrative positions are more likely to continue and to be viewed as successful. It is worth noting that two of the coordinators have remained with the project through its seventh year - well beyond Hogg Foundation funding in spite of changes in the other school administrators, school policies, and funding sources.
- All of the sites increased the number and range of services throughout the project, bringing in needed services and eliminating those that proved inadequate or were no longer needed. The flexibility to change and evolve over time in order to respond to the changing needs of its target population is one indication of the project’s success. It shows that project staff kept up with current issues and changes in the community as well as continued to assess the community’s needs in order to serve more effectively the students and their families.
- Several projects have been initiated in demonstration-site cities that are based on the philosophy and practices of school of the future. Replicating all or part of a project is a clear indication of the esteem in which it is held.
The foundation's evaluations of the project produced a considerable amount of quantitative and qualitative data, now stored at Harvard, on student performance; student, family, and teacher perceptions of their school and of the project; levels of student and teacher support; and family background and use of services.
It also produced a number of publications, including the following.
"A Community Catalyst. School of the Future," Louise Iscoe, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, 1995.
"Community Psychology and Full-Service Schools in Different Cultures," Wayne H. Holtzman, American Psychologist, 1997.