How City Connects could improve the Nation’s Report Card

Across the country, there are student opportunity gaps that — the evidence shows — City Connects can help close. 

We were reminded of the depth of these gaps late last year, when the U.S. Department of Education released “The Nation’s Report Card.” The report card shares the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, (the NAEP test) which is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics. 

And, unfortunately, the NAEP scores are troubling. 

“America’s fourth and eighth graders are losing ground in their ability to read literature and academic texts,” the New York Times reports. “Two out of three children did not meet the standards for reading proficiency.” 

In addition: 

“Only 35 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in reading in 2019, down from 37 percent in 2017; 34 percent of eighth-graders were proficient in reading, down from 36 percent. Overall student progress in reading has stalled in the last decade, with the highest performers stagnating and the lowest-achieving students falling further behind.” 

Pointing out how our model can help, Claire Foley, City Connects’ Associate Director, says, “There is strong evidence that students in City Connects elementary schools outperform their peers in comparison schools on achievement measures, including standardized test scores. Ultimately, this helps address achievement gaps.”

Here in Massachusetts, NAEP results are much stronger, but not for all students. 

“Massachusetts fourth- and eighth-graders continued their run of dominance in reading and math,” the Boston Globe reports of some students’ strong results. This prompted the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to announce that “Massachusetts students once again scored first or statistically tied for first on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam in the reading and math categories.” 

However: “a closer look at the figures reveals disparities between students that still need to be addressed.” Specifically, state officials noted, “achievement gaps for black and Latino students held steady or increased in most areas compared to 2017.” 

Research shows that this is the kind of opportunity gap that City Connects does well at closing. 

As we’ve blogged, the high school dropout rate “for black males in City Connects schools was 50% lower than their peers. For Latino males the rate was 66% lower.” 

What’s at the heart of these opportunity gaps? 

The Times says, “School-district leaders and education advocates said the steep losses among the lowest-performing students reflected structural barriers beyond schoolhouses.” 

These are the barriers that City Connects addresses, from helping students who face hunger and homelessness to connecting kids to dentists or optometrists to providing enrichment by finding camps and music lessons. 

Our results have been strong. In addition to raising standardized test scores and high school graduation rates, City Connects improves grades, enhances school environments, lowers rates of chronic absenteeism, and improves teacher and principal satisfaction. 

“We believe these outcomes are possible,” Foley says, “because of City Connects’ comprehensive approach to student support, which involves every teacher, and which individualizes services and enrichments for every student.”

To learn more about how City Connects helps to narrow opportunity gaps, contact us by sending an email to cityconnects@bc.edu.

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