Sharing what we do — with federal help

As schools find their way through the pandemic, meeting the needs of all students has become more important — and harder for educators to do. That’s why City Connects and the Center for Optimized Student Support, both part of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, are empowering educators across the country to rethink their approaches to providing student support.

The U.S. Department of Education is helping us share what we do by featuring the City Connects model in the newly released “ED COVID-19 HANDBOOK: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs,” Volume 2

The handbook covers how to create safe and healthy learning environments, address lost learning time, and support the stability and well being of educators and school staff. 

In a section on addressing resource inequities, the handbook says in part: 

“…many schools have developed integrated student support (ISS) systems that seek to leverage the school site and community-based resources to ensure students’ social, emotional, physical, mental health, and academic needs are better met, improving outcomes for students and their families.

“Research on at least some of these programs demonstrates the potential of ISS services to improve attendance among young students as well as on-time and high-school graduation rates.”

Pointing to City Connects, the handbook explains that we structure “collaborations between school counselors (or social workers) and instructional staff to develop customized support plans that address individual student needs.”

“Based on those plans, the program provides enrichment, offers early intervention services, or, in the case of students in crisis or in need of more serious intervention, promotes referrals to community resources.”

The handbook also comments on the heart of City Connects and other integrated student support programs, noting, “Active collaboration within and beyond schools can positively affect students’ perception of caring adults in their lives and attitudes toward education.”

Mary Walsh, City Connects’ executive director, points to the importance of disseminating the tough lessons educators have learned during the pandemic. 

“Because everyone has been affected by COVID-19, no one is coming to save us. That’s what makes it so crucial for us as a school improvement model based at a university to share what we’ve learned, drawing on our experience, our data, and our research so that as educators we can ensure that students get the support they need — even in the middle of a global pandemic.”

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