For decades, schools have relied on a “one-size fits all paradigm” that fails to meet “the particular, complex, and varied needs of children and youth living in poverty.”
That’s an observation from a new report from the Education Redesign Lab at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. The report says schools should abandon this approach to poverty and instead devise personalized “success plans” that meet individual students’ needs.
One example of how to do this, the report notes, is City Connects.
The report,“Success Plans: Promising Tools for Customizing Student Supports and Opportunities”, says that these plans will “capture in- and out-of-school strengths and needs of children and youth; connect to the infrastructure that can match them with tailored services and opportunities; and seamlessly coordinate education and community resources to increase access to equitable opportunities.”
“We believe Success Plans have the potential to transform a factory system of schooling into a targeted, customized system that has the capacity to realize our urgent goal of preparing all of our children for success,” Paul Reville says. He’s the Director of the Education Redesign lab and a former Massachusetts Secretary of Education.
Citing City Connects’ “robust partnership” with Boston College, school districts, and community agencies, the report points specifically to our work in Salem, Mass., where City Connects has been implemented in all of the city’s pre-K-to-8 schools.
“The City of Salem has been working closely with the Education Redesign Lab since 2016 as part of the By All Means initiative, a four-year effort to improve child outcomes,” a press release about the report explains.
“As a part of this initiative Mayor Driscoll and the Salem Children’s Cabinet have launched a city-wide campaign entitled, Our Salem, Our Kids. A part of the Our Salem, Our Kids campaign has included a partnership with Boston-based City Connects, which has a 20-year track record of developing and implementing individualized plans to meet the diverse needs of students.”
The report analyzes a total of 13 organizations and agencies that implement different kinds of student support plans and finds 10 guiding principles, explaining that these plans should be:
• cross-sector, meaning plans should draw on services from partners in multiple sectors
• secure, and
This corresponds to City Connects’ four Cs: our Coordinators provide services and support that are customized, comprehensive, coordinated, and continuous. (We also like to point out the fifth C, which is cost-effective.)
By working with every teacher to conduct whole class reviews of every student, our Coordinators ensure that the plans they develop for students are equitable, student-centered, actionable, and relationship-driven. And our community partners enable us to provide students with diverse services and enrichment programs.
Thanks to our Student Support Information System, we are able to collect a wide variety of data and keep it secure, tracking the services and supports that children receive and how this impacts their personal and academic lives. Researchers who have evaluated this data, have confirmed that City Connects has a positive impact on student outcomes.
We build sustainability by working closely with schools and districts to give them the professional support that they need to help their students flourish, even in the face of hunger, homelessness, poverty, and domestic violence.
In its conclusion, the report points to the power of programs that promote plans for success, noting:
“Personalized plans coupled with the provision of comprehensive support services have the potential to reshape the education and social landscape. If we truly want to reduce—if not eliminate—persistent achievement and opportunity gaps and improve a wide range of outcomes for all children and youth, we must think, work, and act differently.”
At City Connects, we’ve taken a “different” approach to education since 2001 by developing plans for children that close achievement and opportunity gaps. Through this work, we share and support the Education Redesign Lab’s goal of ensuring that all children “are prepared for lifelong success and have the opportunity to thrive.”