City Connects and its Impact on Teachers

We know that City Connects helps students, but recently published research also looks at its impact on teachers — and on how they teach.

The article — “The impact of comprehensive student support on teachers: Knowledge of the whole child, classroom practice, and Teacher Support” — appears in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education.

As the article explains, teachers know that children living in poverty often face a long list of challenges, including hunger, homelessness, family chaos, and obesity.

Citing Charles E. Bach’s “Healthier Students are Better Learners,” the article notes, “No matter how well teachers are prepared to teach, no matter what accountability measures are put in place, no matter what governing structures are established for schools, educational progress will be profoundly limited if students are not motivated and able to learn.” Continue reading

How City Connects Keeps Learning

Graduate student researchers Despina Petsagourakis and Agnes Chung

City Connects is constantly learning. We learn from the experiences of our City Connects coordinators and the national array of schools and communities in which we work. And because City Connects is based in Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, we are also learning from different scientific fields about how we can make City Connects better. Once we have this knowledge, we go out and share it.

This cycle of learning was on display last week when Agnes Chung and Romita Mitra – both graduate students at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education – went to a Harvard Graduate School of Education conference to share two research posters about City Connects. The theme of the conference was “Spanning the Divide: Building Bridges through Research.” Continue reading

Seven Things We Know from the Developmental Sciences

Because science tells us more and more about how children’s brains work, we’ve gotten better at providing children with the services and opportunities they need to thrive.

Our Center at the Boston College Lynch School of Education published a brief on the scientific foundation of our work called, “Principles of Effective Practice for Integrated Student Support,” which explains:

“Developmental science illuminates risks to child development and learning, as well as opportunities for meaningful intervention.”

“This research provides insight into why experiences like poverty and trauma can inhibit learning, and what can be done to counteract their effects.” These insights come from the sciences of psychology, human development, cognitive science, and neurobiology.

What do we know, so far? Continue reading

New Report Shares What We are Learning

Since 2001, City Connects has offered a way for schools to address the out-of-school factors that affect children’s learning inside school. The right set of school-based and community resources can help children cope with these outside challenges so that they can learn and thrive.

Over time, City Connects has built a record of success. In city after city, City Connects helps schools improve students’ attendance, effort, and grades. City Connects narrows achievement gaps and reduces high school dropout rates.

This work has become even more important as more children across the country face more challenges. Nationally, 52 percent of children in our public schools are eligible for Free or Reduced-price Lunch, a measure of low-income status that overlaps with known barriers to learning.

What we are learning through City Connects can help us to serve growing numbers of students. We help address children’s comprehensive needs so they are ready to learn and engage in school. Continue reading

Building a Safe and Supportive Community at Boston’s Edison School

“We represent over 40 different countries and over the past two years, I have run the annual multicultural event, which has been a cool thing at the end of the year to celebrate diversity in our school,” Shelby Riley explained in a recent interview.

Riley is the one of the City Connects site coordinators in Boston’s Thomas Edison K-8 School, where nearly 60 percent of the Edison’s students come from disadvantaged homes, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and 49 percent are English Language Learners.

“With all that’s going on in our world, our families are very much affected by it,” Riley adds. “We had a lot of kids in fear of being deported.”

After brainstorming with Edison’s principal, Samantha Varano, Riley worked with a team of teachers to organize a multicultural event. It was based on a similar event done by one of the Edison’s community partners, EF (Education First).

Rather than feeding into fear, “we wanted to do more of the positive, the celebrating, and letting kids be proud.” Continue reading

City Connects Goes to High School

 

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Chaminade Julienne’s Principal John Marshall; Marcus Colvin, a teacher; and Assistant Principal Greg Mueller at the National Youth-At-Risk Conference

City Connects began in 2001 as an intervention in elementary schools. The program brought the right services to the right child at the right time in K-5 or K-8 schools.

Since then, City Connects has grown to serve students from preschool to community college.

The very first adaptation of City Connects put the program in a high school, the Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School, in Dayton, Ohio, in the 2010-11 school year.

“We wanted to keep the frameworks of City Connects, the core components,” Patrice DiNatale explains. She’s the director of new practice for City Connects. “How do we do that in a high school where they see six, seven teachers?”

City Connects’ core practice remained the same: assess the strengths and needs of every student at the high school and connect to them to services and enrichment opportunities. Site coordinators connect to students and talk to them — and they talk formally and informally with teachers. It’s a matter of getting a feel for a school, of knowing who might need a kind word and who needs a long talk or something to eat. Continue reading

A Video Tells Our Story

We’re excited about our new video. It’s an overview of how City Connects gets the right services to the right child at the right time.

In the video, Julia MacEwan, a City Connects site coordinator, says:

“In order for kids to be successful in school, they need lots of different things. A kid might need a backpack, a winter coat. She might need counseling, a family service center. And those are all the kinds of things that your City Connects coordinator can connect you to.”

Eric Dearing — a professor of Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology in Boston College’s Lynch School of Education — explains:

“One advantage of City Connects is that it takes a multi-pronged approach to solving a multi-pronged problem. The disadvantage – and also the advantages – that we see among families in poverty are not the same from family to family and child to child.”

And Mary Walsh, City Connects’ executive director, adds:

“We did it by relying on developmental science, and we worked very closely with practitioners in the community. We were able, in a sense, to create a system that built the proverbial village around a child.”

Please take a look.

Understanding Why City Connects Works

City Connects

We’ve known that students who participate in City Connects during elementary school do well on middle school assessments of academic achievement. However, we know less about why that’s true.

What leads to the academic gains that City Connects provides?

New research is shedding light on this question by looking at the impact of three things: how elementary school academic skills, elementary school thriving skills, and the amount of time spent in City Connects affect academic achievement.

These research findings will be presented tomorrow at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness.

One of the research papers that will be presented asks whether an additional year of City Connects boosts students’ academic outcomes. This paper will be presented by Diego Luna Bazaldua, a post-doctoral researcher who is part of an independent evaluation team of faculty and researchers within the Center for Optimized Student Support at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education.

Luna Bazaldua says this research is “as close as you can get to a real experiment.” That’s important since researchers haven’t run randomized trials on City Connects because we deliver the intervention to every child in a school. Continue reading