City Connects began in 2001 as an intervention in elementary schools. The program brought the right services to the right child at the right time in K-5 or K-8 schools.
Since then, City Connects has grown to serve students from preschool to community college.
The very first adaptation of City Connects put the program in a high school, the Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School, in Dayton, Ohio, in the 2010-11 school year.
“We wanted to keep the frameworks of City Connects, the core components,” Patrice DiNatale explains. She’s the director of new practice for City Connects. “How do we do that in a high school where they see six, seven teachers?”
City Connects’ core practice remained the same: assess the strengths and needs of every student at the high school and connect to them to services and enrichment opportunities. Site coordinators connect to students and talk to them — and they talk formally and informally with teachers. It’s a matter of getting a feel for a school, of knowing who might need a kind word and who needs a long talk or something to eat.
But behind the scenes, the process changed to accommodate older kids. Instead of a whole class review with a single classroom teacher, the high school process pulls in much more information through coordinators’ ongoing conversations with teachers, staff, and students. We also collect data. The reviews take a comprehensive look at what students need to be ready to learn. We consider their attendance, math and literacy skills, any behavioral incidents, and their grades, and grade point averages.
We also give each student an opportunity to tell us what they think by asking them to fill out surveys. The surveys provide insights about school climate as well as students’ desires for drama or other programs that a school doesn’t have. Surveys also make it easy to hear from students who are quieter.
Teachers also fill out surveys about their students. And these responses reveal patterns and challenges. Often, teachers agree on a student’s performance. But when, say, an English teacher sees a student doing well, while a science teacher sees that same student struggling, these contradictory perspectives create the opportunity for an intervention. The two teachers can come together, consult with each other, and share strategies for how best to reach the student.
“It gets people talking about kids more holistically,” DiNatale says.
According to Chaminade Julienne’s website, “The school attributes the program as a key factor in the school’s improved retention rate, and CJ leadership now plays a lead role in helping other schools adapt the model.”
In 2015, members of the Chaminade Julienne community testified about City Connects before the Ohio Senate. Principal John C. Marshall said, “The City Connects program has encouraged faculty and staff to get to know more about each one of our kids personally. By doing so, we’ve been able to identify issues before they can impact a student’s ability to learn.”
Earlier this month, Marshall and Assistant Principal Greg Mueller presented about City Connects at the 28th annual National Youth-at-Risk Conference. The conference “trains adults who serve youths to create safe, healthy, caring, and intellectually empowering educational environments that foster the well-being of all children and adolescents.”
City Connects’ work at Chaminade Julienne prepared us as we moved into community colleges – a process we’ll blog about in the coming weeks.