Using data to promote student success in Salem

For the first time, City Connects has been implemented on a citywide level. The City Connects model is being used in every public K-8 school in Salem, Mass.

Now that the program is in its second year, we have the first year’s data, and this information is helping Salem promote students’ success and helping us understand how City Connects works on a municipal scale.

Before City Connects, “The student population was coming to school with barriers and challenges,” Salem Public Schools’ Superintendent Margarita Ruiz said recently at the national conference on integrated student support that was hosted by the Center for Optimized Student Support, part of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education.

As a city, Salem has rich cultural and community resources, but many of the city’s children still face food and housing insecurity, Ruiz explained, and many children have unmet social and emotional needs. Teachers and school counselors had struggled to meet these needs because they didn’t have a structure to connect kids to community resources.

“We needed to make this a community mission,” Ruiz said. “We were intent on having a systematic solution to this challenge.”

City Connects was invited to help with this work, and we are currently part of the Salem Public Schools’ Equity and Engagement Department.

“The data makes our work come alive. It’s helping to guide our thinking on the framework and practice,” Ellen Wingard, Salem’s City Connects Program Manager, explains.

Data for the 2017-18 academic year shows how much has been accomplished. City Connects coordinators served 3,091 students and provided them with 27,258 services. All students received at least one service. And 99 percent received at least three services.

The specific service categories are:

• 100 percent of students received prevention and enrichment services –
including after-school, summer, and sports programs

• 87 percent of students received early intervention services – mentoring, academic, counseling, and language services, and

• 28 percent of students received intensive and crisis intervention services – attendance support and medical services as well as intensive mental health services

Wingard says the data enable “us to ask, are we truly tailoring services for students?” And this empowers coordinators to research questions that are critical to improving practice.

One Salem coordinator is using the data to look at whether and how early intervention services might help children before they get to the point of needing intensive services.

Another coordinator is using the data to do an additional review of students who have moderate risks, to see if they need additional services. 

The data are also helping the entire school community to understand how to have a positive impact on students’ lives in a systematic way. And thanks to the data, Salem can see what new community partners it needs – and how these partners could serve even more students.

At City Connects, we are excited to see how Salem’s efforts grow over time – and how school- and city-level leaders use data to improve the lives of children and families across the city. For now, though, Salem is expanding its effort to systematically get the right services to the right child at the right time.

As Wingard says, “Students have diverse strengths and needs that cross socio-economic status, culture, and language. With City Connects, we are customizing services so that we can provide the best support for each individual child.”

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