New Report Shares What We are Learning

Since 2001, City Connects has offered a way for schools to address the out-of-school factors that affect children’s learning inside school. The right set of school-based and community resources can help children cope with these outside challenges so that they can learn and thrive.

Over time, City Connects has built a record of success. In city after city, City Connects helps schools improve students’ attendance, effort, and grades. City Connects narrows achievement gaps and reduces high school dropout rates.

This work has become even more important as more children across the country face more challenges. Nationally, 52 percent of children in our public schools are eligible for Free or Reduced-price Lunch, a measure of low-income status that overlaps with known barriers to learning.

What we are learning through City Connects can help us to serve growing numbers of students. We help address children’s comprehensive needs so they are ready to learn and engage in school.

Housed in the Boston College Lynch School of Education’s Center for Optimized Student Support, City Connects is eager to share what we are learning. A new white paper released by the center explores the opportunity to address students’ needs and improve learning outcomes across Massachusetts.

The white paper — “Tipping the Scales: How integrating school and community resources can improve student outcomes and the Commonwealth’s future” — argues that Massachusetts is poised to successfully integrate student supports at scale.

The paper makes a research-based case that Massachusetts has the knowledge, tools, and experience “to cure the disconnect between children in need and resources we have” by better integrating “education with social services, youth development, health and mental health resources for children and families.”

The six specific factors that make this an ideal time to act are:

• more children, in more Massachusetts communities, are experiencing intense barriers to learning

• research has identified ways to overcome these barriers

• economists find well-implemented integrated student support can produce a return on investment of $3 in benefits for every $1 in costs

• models in schools and communities across the country offer opportunities to study implementation

• Massachusetts has the foundation in policy and practice to make comprehensive, integrated student support available in any community that chooses it, and

• having an infrastructure can make implementation at scale feasible and cost-efficient

“In the 21st century, Massachusetts’ schools need not and cannot do it alone,” the white paper says. “We seek to make it possible for any Massachusetts school district to choose to drive the right resources to the right child at the right time in order to narrow achievement gaps, reduce dropout rates, and improve educational opportunity for all.”

It’s time, in other words, to scale our impact.

“City Connects’ results for low-income children show us what is possible for all students when they get the supports and opportunities they need to be ready to learn and thrive,” says Mary Walsh, the executive director of City Connects and the director of the Center for Optimized Student Support. “We want to share what we are learning from City Connects, draw on the best insights from research and practice, and make it possible for every student to get the comprehensive supports they need to succeed.”

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