Across the country, school staff, families, and students are entering another year that’s sure to be full of unexpected challenges and uncertainties. To promote healing and each child’s potential, it is critically important that we meet this moment by redoubling our focus on connections with children and families and on the unique strengths and needs that each student brings with them to school.
That’s why here at the Boston College Center for Optimized Student Support, we are widening our mission and expanding into more school districts in Indiana, Massachusetts, and New York. As part of this expanded mission, we will serve as the nation’s hub for the science, implementation, innovation, and information of promoting learning and healthy child development through the effective integration of whole-child supports.
For more than ten years, we have been part of a growing national movement to bring insights from the sciences of child development and learning to advance “whole child” approaches. Because of these insights, we know that students’ in-school performance is affected by factors that exist out of school. We know that hunger, homelessness, trauma, and stress affect a child’s readiness to learn. We also know that every child is unique, with strengths and opportunities to grow that should be met individually, rather than with one-size-fits all solutions.
An individualized approach to meeting students’ needs and strengths underpins our flagship program, a research-practice partnership called City Connects, one of the nation’s most effective practices of student support.
At the Center for Optimized Student Support, we have partnered with researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to develop insights and share best practices for those seeking to effectively address the out-of-school challenges that can limit a child’s readiness to learn. Our work includes:
- Cutting-edge research at the intersection of child development, poverty, and learning
- Lending insights into how and why addressing out-of-school factors can improve student social-emotional and academic outcomes
- Demonstrating that an elementary school intervention can have lifelong positive impacts, decreasing high school dropout rates and increasing postsecondary completion, and
- Understanding more about how to improve teacher-student relationships and school climate
- Incubating the development and implementation of interventions such as City Connects
- Serving over 45,000 children and youth, from pre-kindergarten to community college
- Producing policy resources for local, state, and federal leaders
- Sharing briefs for practitioners with best practices and insights informed by our work in schools, early education programs, and colleges partnered with City Connects
- Creating action guides for implementation of effective practices during COVID-19; and
- Delivering online professional development courses that highlight the expertise of our network of practitioners
We will continue this work and share it more broadly across the nation.
This moment presents all of us with an opportunity to reshape what it means to support children, young adults, and families. We look forward to contributing to this critically important work.