A new school year with new potential

Mary E. Walsh
Mary E. Walsh

A post by Mary Walsh, Executive Director of City Connects and the Daniel Kearns Professor of Urban Education and Innovative Leadership at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College.

Welcome to the new academic year. We think it’s full of promise.

Across the country, there’s growing awareness about the importance of providing integrated student support — school-based coordination of the services and enrichment programs that help children learn and thrive.

National organizations such as Child Trends are advancing this work. And state and federal laws are asking schools to provide more integrated support, providing funding to do so, and looking for efforts that are evidence-based. In other words, the demand for programs like City Connects is growing.

City Connects’ systematic approach to providing support and enrichment is making a positive difference in the lives of children and families. Because we proactively ask what students need, we are gradually eliminating the stigma of asking for help when tragedy or trauma strike. Our coordinators are creating positive relationships with families, making it easier to reach out when support is needed.

This year at City Connects, we’re excited to announce that we are expanding into three new schools in Indiana, a new state for our program and into five new schools in Boston. This means we’ll be in a total of 88 schools in five states: Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio.

On the research front, Boston College researchers continue to use a prestigious Institute of Education Sciences grant to study the efficacy of City Connects. The grant funds three studies.

The first study looks at City Connects’ effects on students who are randomly assigned to elementary schools through an oversubscribed enrollment lottery. The second study looks at how City Connects is replicated in elementary schools that have been identified as persistently underperforming. And the third study is analyzing outcomes for students who participate in City Connects during middle school.

And finally, in partnership with our research center, we continue to build bridges between research and policy by sharing what we’ve learned about transforming schools in national meetings and publications.

There are undeniable challenges ahead. Poverty persists. Achievement gaps are common. And many schools are struggling to address the impact of poverty on children’s ability to learn. But embedded in these challenges is a call to action and an opportunity to make substantial progress on delivering coordinated, comprehensive supports for students.

So, once again, welcome to a new year. We think it’s going to be a great season of connecting students to the resources they need to thrive.

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