One secret to City Connects’ success: fidelity

One factor that makes City Connects so powerful is its fidelity system.

This is the work of ensuring that the City Connects model is implemented consistently in all the schools across the five states where our Coordinators provide integrated student support.

“When City Connects began to expand into new cities and states, we identified the need to be able to measure whether City Connects looked the same across all our sites,” says Jessica Petrie, the Continuous Improvement Specialist at City Connects.

Based on the research of the late Carol T. Mowbray, a professor of psychology and social work at the University of Michigan, the City Connects team drew on the City Connects practice manual to devise a fidelity system that was rolled out to the field four years ago.

The system looks at seven core components of the City Connects practice:

• the work coordinators do when schools open in the fall

• how coordinators conduct their whole class reviews

• how they conduct individual student reviews of children who have more complex needs

• the types of community partnerships that schools have and how coordinators engage these partners

• how coordinators promote students’ physical health and well-being

• how family partnerships are promoted, and

• the work and summer planning that coordinators do at the end of the school year

“Within each of the components, there are facets, the subsets of tasks that need to happen in the larger buckets of the core components,” Petrie says. For example, what steps do coordinators have to take before, during, and after the process of conducting whole class reviews.

Within each facet are indicators, the actual measures of what coordinators have done. This might be a yes/no item on a checklist or a statistic about how many students have received services.

All the information is collected from our Student Support Information System (SSIS) and written up in annual fidelity reports, which are sent to City Connects’ Program Managers so they can see how their districts are doing both in a given school year and over time. Program Managers use this information to set goals for the coming school year, and they can also go into the SSIS system, see how individual schools have done on fidelity, and use the information to coach coordinators.

“It’s been a really helpful tool for deepening the practice, and it is a mechanism for monitoring that City Connects is being delivered as intended in the ever growing network of schools,” Petrie notes. The fidelity system also helps City Connects engage in an on-going process of continuous improvement.

Essentially, the fidelity system is one of the ways that the different parts of City Connects always talk to each other.

“One of the strengths of City Connects as a whole is that it’s a research-based practice and research-driven. We are continually interacting with the field and using what we learn to maintain and improve implementation” Petrie says.

“The quick turnaround time between fidelity data collection and reporting back to the practitioners is gratifying. The strong research-to-practice connection at City Connects is a clear strength of the intervention.”

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