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We’re proud to share one of our videos on how City Connects works. Principals, community partners, and City Connects staff all help tell the story of meeting students nonacademic needs to help them thrive in school.

“We’ve been able to transition from a school in crisis to a stable school focusing on literacy thanks to the support from City Connects.”
– Mike Sabin, Former Principal, the John W. McCormack Middle School in Boston

“Just in the last two months, we provided a new pair of shoes to each of our children and a new winter coat. For impoverished families, it’s a big deal.”
– Robert Kordenbrock, Red Oak After School Program, Boston-Chinatown Neighborhood Center Continue reading

A system of support

This week, a column in the Washington Post called on local leaders to address “the hard facts of inequality” in children’s access to opportunities to learn.

The column calls for personalized schools and “systems of support” that help children focus on learning when they arrive at school.

This is particularly important given the achievement gaps that children from low-income families struggle to close.

Here at City Connects, creating systems of support and opportunity so that children can succeed academically and personally, is at the heart of what we do.

Two years ago, WGBH radio broadcast a story on City Connects, and we’re sharing it now because it brings this idea to life. Continue reading

City Connects’ Community Partner Breakfast

“Finally, finally, finally, the whole child is back on the agenda and that’s very, very exciting for all of us in this room,” Mary Walsh said last week at City Connects’ annual Community Partner Breakfast.

Educators and community leaders attended the breakfast, which was held at Suffolk University Law School. The theme was “Supporting the Whole Child.”

The keynote speaker was Liz Walker, a former television news anchor and currently the Senior Pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church. She was followed by a panel discussion that featured four school and community partners who work with City Connects.

For Walsh, the breakfast was a chance to rally the troops – the teachers, the City Connects coordinators, and the community partners who provide an array of services — and explain how their work is helping Boston’s students. Continue reading

Continuous improvement at City Connects

“We’ve been doing continuous improvement work for one and a half years,” Jessica Petrie explains. Petrie is the Continuous Improvement Specialist at City Connects.

Continuous improvement is the demanding work that boils down to two questions: How is City Connects doing? And, how can it be better?

“We are constantly learning,” says City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh. “Continuously improving the practice allows us to identify challenges, and turn them into opportunities so that we can better serve our students, our teachers, our schools.”

Continuous Improvement: Individual Student Reviews

For City Connects, the first continuous improvement project started organically when the implementation team noticed that some schools weren’t meeting benchmarks for individual student reviews or ISRs. Continue reading

Public support for providing students needed services

It’s not surprising that a recent poll on public schools found that people think schools should do a better job of preparing students.

What’s striking is the finding on how to do this work.

“More than 85 percent of all Americans believe schools should provide mental health services, according to the latest PDK poll, a survey of the public’s attitudes about the nation’s schools,” the website RealClearEducation reports.

“What’s more, 79 percent think schools should provide general health services to students who need them, according to the survey. Support for wraparound services was even high across party lines, with 68 percent of Republicans—and 65 percent of “strong conservatives” —agreeing that schools should provide them.”

In addition, 92 percent support the idea of public schools offering after-school programs.

This finding comes from the “49th Annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools,” which “is based on a random, representative, 50-state sample of 1,588 adults interviewed by cell or landline telephone, in English or Spanish, in May 2017.” Continue reading

Winning in Ohio

Photo Source: Our Lady of the Rosary School’s Facebook page.

Over time, the student body at Our Lady of the Rosary School changed. The Dayton, Ohio, Catholic, K-8 elementary school was serving more Latino students who are recent immigrants.

It was a shift other urban Catholic schools were seeing. And educators knew they had to adapt. Mary Walsh, City Connects’ Executive Director, was seeing the same population changes as well as the need for schools to keep up with students’ needs.

“Sustainability in the urban environment requires not only educational excellence but also cultural responsiveness to new immigrant groups in these communities, e.g., Latinos, Haitians, Cape Verdeans,” Walsh wrote in a 2011, co-authored report, “Sustaining Urban Catholic Elementary Schools An Examination of Governance Models and Funding Strategies.”

“Urban Catholic schools can and should provide a safe educational environment that is tailored to the cultural and linguistic needs and strengths of immigrant students and their families,” the report adds.  Continue reading

Johns Hopkins University looks at City Connects

Last month the Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Education Policy hosted a conversation in Baltimore on “A Holistic Approach to Student Needs: Community Schools and Integrated Student Supports.” The event featured City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh, the Daniel E. Kearns Professor of Urban Education and Innovation at the Boston College Lynch School of Education.

The event’s central question: What do we know about how can schools “nurture students’ intellectual progress” and address “the substantial non-school stressors that often interfere with learning?”

As it turns out, we know quite a bit. Research continues to show that addressing children’s out-of-school problems helps them succeed in school.

The conversation considered a variety of programs that help students “from community schools to Integrated Student Support models” – and how these programs meet students’ academic, emotional, and physical needs? Continue reading

Accelerating success: City Connects in Hartford

Girl Scouts Bridge Celebration. Photo: Courtesy of Charlene Diaz


In the Hartford Public Schools (HPS), City Connects isn’t just a partner. We’re part of Hartford’s Acceleration Agenda.

The agenda – which is itself part of a larger strategic operating plan — is an effort “to address educational equity and achievement by optimizing support for schools and creating consistency of practice.”

The goal is to “accelerate learning by taking a case-management approach to personalize solutions for all of our students, classrooms and schools.”

It’s a promising vision of achieving district-wide success one student and one school at a time in a system where the majority of students come from low-income families.

City Connects coordinators started working in Hartford’s schools last year, and initially there was a learning curve, Charlene Perez Diaz explains. Continue reading