National conferences feature City Connects


While Coordinators bring the power of City Connects to students, it is academic researchers at Boston College who share the story of City Connects at conferences, so that others can learn from what we do.

“An advantage of City Connects being located at a university is access to researchers who can evaluate the program’s impact,” Anastasia Raczek says of City Connects, which is a part of the Center for Optimized Student Support. Raczek is the Associate Director of Research & Evaluation of the center, which is at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development.

This spring, researchers have shared five presentations about City Connects at education research conferences in the United States and Canada.

The research was conducted by both Boston College professors and graduate students.

“Graduate education is a vital part of our mission, and we’re excited about the research our students have done and shared at these conferences,” Raczek says. “Because they come from different departments – education, measurement and statistics, developmental psychology, counseling psychology, and curriculum studies — they bring a diverse range of professional viewpoints.”

Here’s a summary of the research presentations:

“Using School Admissions Lotteries to Measure Effects of an Integrated Student Support Model on Students’ Academic Achievement”

Presented in March at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness, in Washington, D.C., by Jordan Lawson, a doctoral student in the Lynch School’s Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment Department.

As we’ve blogged, Lawson helped use Boston’s school lottery system to create a randomized way to study the impact of City Connects. Finding a way to randomize the data is important because City Connects is not delivered in a randomized fashion; every student in a school receives services. The study’s concludes that, “For entering kindergarten students, random assignment to a school implementing City Connects resulted in better academic performance, with these benefits being most notable at later grades.”


“Addressing Endogeneity Selection Bias in a Non-Experimental Study of Academic Achievement”

Presented in March at the Society for Research in Child Development in Baltimore, Md., by Jordan Lawson.

This study looks at ways to examine causal impact of an intervention using two novel approaches. The first approach simulates random offers from a school lottery algorithm. In the second approach, researchers used the Gaussian Copula regression — a statistical tool that has been used in the financial industry – to calculate the causal effect of City Connects. The study found that City Connects had a positive impact on test scores starting in elementary school.


“City Connects: Supporting the Development of the Whole Child in Schools”

This study was written by Mary Walsh, the Executive Director of City Connects, and presented by Raczek earlier this month at the American Educational Research Association, in Toronto, Canada.

This study looks at City Connects as a “whole child” intervention that supports multiple developmental domains using results from two urban, public school districts. Results for implementing City Connects were presented.

In the first district, City Connects had a positive impact on grades during elementary school, in 6th to 8th grade, City Connects improved grades, test score, and chronic absenteeism.

In the second district, City Connects led to improvements in test scores that helped close the achievement gap between treatment schools and other schools in the district.


“School-Based Perspectives on Data Practices and Evidence Use in a Longstanding Research-Practice Partnership”

This study was presented earlier this month by Caitlin Long, a Boston College doctoral student and school assistant principal, at the American Educational Research Association in Toronto, Canada.

This qualitative study looks at three urban schools to “explore how teachers, principals and coordinators collaborate around data practices” as they implement City Connects, the abstract explains.

While many studies report on statistical analysis of data, this qualitative study focused on “lived experiences,” meaning the insights that human beings can draw from the work they do to help students succeeds. In interviews, school staff and coordinators explained how research affects the ways they implement City Connects, and how, in turn, City Connects affects the culture of the schools where it’s implemented. Researchers found that principals, teachers, and coordinators experienced an increased understanding of the many factors that impact students. They also used data more frequently to solve problems.


“Integrated Student Support and English Language Learners: A Multi-Site Case Study”

This study was presented earlier this month by Deoksoon Kim, an Associate Professor in the Lynch School’s Department of Teacher Education, Special Education, Curriculum & Instruction, at the American Educational Research Association in Toronto, Canada.

This study looks at how City Connects Coordinators work with students who are English Language Learners (ELLs). This study used quantitative data as well as a qualitative case study approach that included interviews and site visits. Students who were language learners received significantly more services than non-ELL students in the sites studied (12 vs. 10). The study points to the importance of how City Connects coordinators form relationships with ELL students as well as with families, school staff, and community partners.

The study also found that coordinators “act as culturally respectful and responsive mediators between home and school cultures, as well as between heritage and US cultures.” In addition, “the crucial role of coordinators in creating and maintaining relationships between home and school suggests that they can act as knowledge brokers and conduits of communication, while always attending to ELLs academic, cultural and emotional needs.”


Research is a continuous and essential part to the work we do to improve the City Connects model – and share our outcomes.

It’s work that will continue. Mary Walsh, City Connects’ Executive Director, sums up this future, explaining:

“Our forthcoming research will continue to explore the effectiveness of programs such as City Connects in increasing positive outcomes for students, providing resources for district administrators to deal with unique challenges, and offering access to vitally important supports aimed at improving the efficiency of services delivered by our many government, non-profit, and philanthropic partners.”

As a City Connects press release explains, “These research presentations come on the heels of an EdWeek report suggesting that major donors interested in education philanthropy are increasingly supporting initiatives that focus on providing ‘wraparound’ supports to children and families.”

Walsh adds, “We are delighted that the education community is increasingly recognizing the need for programs that focus on the whole child.” 

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