We’re excited to announce that City Connects is featured in the October edition of the Abell Report. The report is published by the Baltimore-based Abell Foundation, the largest foundation that focuses solely on Baltimore.
The Abell Report sums up assumptions that are common in many schools: Support services for students are important, but “they are often dismissed as isolated from the core school functions of teaching and learning.”
It is, however, essential to relocate these services to a school’s core. As the report says, “New research shows that effective student support not only improves the climate of a school, but it can also actually accelerate learning and improve students’ academic outcomes.”
The report also shares the perspective of school administrators who have worked with City Connects to sharpen their focus on meeting students’ needs.
Mary Driscoll, a Boston Public Schools’ principal leader, paints this before and after picture:
“Prior to City Connects, we had a guidance counselor who was more of a records person and the convener of the Student Support Team. Teachers came to the meeting with one outside partner who provided some counseling, but we didn’t have many resources with which to connect students. There were lots of kids who we should have been talking about but weren’t.”
“With City Connects, we went from 20 mph to 80 mph in terms of what we could offer. And because it looked at all kids, it felt more equitable than what we did before. It also worked. Our school of 700 students climbed from the 2nd percentile in Boston Public Schools to the 25th percentile, and I attribute much of that to City Connects.”
Ron Cope, the program manager for City Connects at the Children’s Aid Society of New York, explains:
“The City Connects process allowed us to challenge our practice in our schools. Without City Connects we were doing a lot of quick assessments on the fly, which meant that we ended up sending lots of kids for mental health services because they needed something and that seemed like a good thing to provide. But City Connects has challenged us on that front and made us better. It might not be a mental health issue; a student might have a major challenge with reading. We didn’t know until we talked with each teacher systematically.”
Sandra Ward, the director of Community Partnerships at Hartford Public Schools, says:
“We did not have a process, let alone a robust process for Student Support Teams, and our social workers were drowning in IEPs and crisis management. City Connects brings in a person whose job is to create a system, not just for the kids in crisis but for every kid. “It isn’t about adding more capacity in order to continue to operate in chaos-mode. It’s about changing how we do business.”
And the report itself says:
“City Connects provides a structure that supports every teacher in the building. There is a growing body of research that suggests why such a structure can be transformative for teachers and their students.”
“Teachers are expected to understand the ‘whole child’ and differentiate instruction and support accordingly. But that understanding can be difficult to acquire from bits of conversation, test scores, and even the most careful of observations. It can also be frustrating, depressing, and isolating work.”
A potent solution:
“Teachers who have a coherent, systematic way to develop that understanding, through a program like City Connects, are better positioned to change their mindsets, their classroom practices, and their relationships with students.”
With a strong system like City Connects in place, schools can make a far-reaching difference in students’ lives. We’re grateful to the Abell Foundation for their research.