Salem: A city getting ahead of the learning curve

Salem is becoming a city that’s prepared to provide children with the support, help, and enrichment that they need to thrive, Emily Ullman says, instead of addressing crises after they occur.

Ullman is the Director of Extended Learning Programs at Salem Public Schools. She’s also one of the city officials involved in a community collaborative looking at children.

“We knew we were a resource rich community,” Ullman says, pointing to Salem’s many cultural and community organizations and to school staff who were ready to do more for students.

What the city needed was a way to coordinate its in-school and out-of-school efforts and collect data on its actions. It turned to City Connects as part of a broader, citywide effort to address students’ barriers to learning. Continue reading

Sharing what we’re learning: How we can help immigrant students succeed

At City Connects, we always share what we’re learning. It’s a vital way to promote student success.

Last month, Eric Dearing participated in a webinar on immigrant children, sharing what we know about their outcomes. (He starts speaking at the 35:43-minute mark.) Dearing is a professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and an independent researcher who has assessed City Connects’ impact.

We know that many first-generation immigrant children who are new to the country face challenges. Dearing explained during the webinar, which was hosted by the Foundation for Child Development. Poverty presents “multi-pronged risks for immigrant children at nearly every level of context in which their lives are embedded.. whether we’re talking about neighborhoods or the schools or the families or the homes in which they are living.” Many of these students can also struggle in school because they are also English Language Learners. Continue reading

A national study finds evidence that Integrated Student Supports can have long-term benefits for children

Here at City Connects, we know that providing students with services — such as tutoring, housing, and medical care — helps them succeed in school because we have the data.

Nationally, Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization, has taken look at integrated student supports (ISS)  — a school-based approach to promoting academic success by providing support for the whole child to addresses academic and nonacademic barriers to achievement —  and found a growing evidence base.

As Child Trends explains in its new report — “Making the Grade: A Progress Report and Next Steps for Integrated Student Supports” — integrated services help children and families and “further our nation’s collective efforts to close education opportunity gaps, raise graduation rates, and better compete on the international stage.”

In 2014, Child Trends did an earlier evaluation of integrated support programs and found that the evidence base was still “emerging.”

In 2015, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act explicitly encouraged schools to provide integrated services, a first-time event in federal lawmaking. Continue reading

The Giving Tree

City Connects Coordinator Erika Griffin spotted a holiday problem. She realized that a community partner who had provided gifts for needy children in the past could no longer do so.

To meet this need, Griffin reached out to a friend who helped ensure that a “Giving Tree” was placed in the financial aid department at Salem State College. The tree is made of tags that are each marked with the age and gender of a child in Salem’s public schools. Within a few days, Salem State staff members had chosen a tag and bought gifts for all the children.

Holiday problem solved.

This is just one of the many heart-warming ways that City Connects and our community partners work together to make sure students receive winter gear, books, and toys during the holiday season.


Enjoy the holidays! The blog will be back in January.

Community partnerships bring beds to Springfield

Sometimes our community partners are single organizations, the YMCA or a college that provides tutors.

Other times we work with community teams. That’s the story in western Massachusetts where Stephanie Sanabria, a City Connects Coordinator in Springfield’s public schools, helps children get beds.

Students who are homeless often don’t have a safe, clean, place to sleep. They may have lost everything in a fire or lost an apartment for economic reasons. Once they do have a place to stay, however, giving them a bed can make a substantial, positive difference.

As we blogged last spring, Sanabria works with the local credit unions to raise funding for a Bed for Every Child, a program run by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.

More recently, in October, new beds were delivered to Springfield where they were received by a number of local leaders, including Sanabria as well as Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Azell Cavaan, Chief Communications Officer of Springfield Public Schools, and a number of credit union CEOs and staff members.

City Connects makes these kinds of community partnerships more powerful by identifying children in need and connecting them to the resources that community partners provide. And when Sanabria connects a child to a bed, she also connects them to other needed resources and services such as food, clothing, and other assistance. Continue reading

City Connects is recognized for its impact

We are happy to announce that Results for America, a national nonprofit, has added Mary Walsh and City Connects to its Moneyball for Government Team, a list of leaders and organizations that are using data to solve problems.

Sports fans know that “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” is a book by Michael Lewis. It tells the stories of how the Oakland A’s, a baseball team with a limited budget, gave up on conventional wisdom and started using a statistical approach to evaluate and recruit players. Data, in other words, helped the A’s become a better team and win games.

In the same vein, Results for America uses its “Moneyball for Government” designation to encourage “governments at all levels to increase their use of evidence and data when investing limited taxpayer dollars. By playing Moneyball, we can improve outcomes for young people, their families and communities.” Continue reading

Helping students who have fled the aftermath of Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico is rebuilding after the devastating effect of Hurricane Maria – and across the country, cities and states are welcoming the students who have left the island.

City Connects coordinators are working hard to welcome these students and meet their needs to make it a little easier for them to focus on school. Especially in Massachusetts, a state that’s getting an influx of students.

“More than 300 school-aged children from Puerto Rico are now living in Massachusetts, according to Jacqueline Reis, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,” the Salem News reported last month.

Five students were studying in Salem’s public schools “where Superintendent Margarita Ruiz said she and other school officials were ready to welcome the students with backpacks full of supplies and other services they may need. Another three are on their way.” Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving…

…from City Connects!