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


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

Learning About ESSA — and the Whole Child

Shaw Elementary School

Children aren’t the only ones who have a lot to learn about school.

According to an analysis done by Education Week, elected officials and state education leaders also have lessons to learn.

“At a pivotal time for state education policy, half the nation’s state legislatures have at least one new education committee chairperson this year, and a quarter of state schools chiefs are less than a year into the job, according to an Education Week analysis,” the magazine explains in its article, “Steep Learning Curve on K-12 as State Leaders Take New Seats.”

The article adds:

“This year’s large freshman class of key education policymakers has advocates and district leaders on edge as state leaders scramble to finalize the accountability plans due by next fall under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

Continue reading

The 4 Cs of City Connects


City Connects builds on the developmental sciences, and it has been shaped through a two-year planning process that included  educators, community agencies, and families.

That’s why our  supports for students are:  


 To fit the unique strengths, needs, and interests of each student.

“The most important benefit of City Connects is how patiently they listen to student’s concerns, and bring back very good workable solutions/resources to help the student.”

        – A teacher in a City Connects School


Meeting academic, social/emotional, health, and family needs.

“Mark Griffin starts every weekday standing at the door of the Thomas Edison K8 School in Brighton: “Great hat!” “Don’t you look good today!” “How’re you making out?”

“His pleasantries are a nice way to start the day, but they also have a point. As Griffin greets more than 400 students each morning, he’s looking to see who is shivering in a too-thin coat, whose eyes look rimmed with tears, which parents are walking their kids to school and staying for the free breakfast themselves.

“‘It’s hard to concentrate on schoolwork when there are other things much more important to them that need to be addressed,’” Griffin said.”

The Boston Globe

Continue reading

A Principal Writes about City Connects


screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-4-36-55-pmWe’re grateful to Karen Juliano, the CEO and high school principal at Catholic Central in Springfield, Ohio, for the terrific opinion piece she wrote in the Springfield News-Sun about City Connects.

Juliano explains, “…we are now in the fourth year developing a network of providers and programs designed to make our schools stronger: to help our challenged students succeed and our traditional students get more out of their education — all the while fostering the kind of community cohesion that has always been part of the Catholic Central experience.”

Catholic Central prides itself on being able to help a range of students.

“As our community has become more diverse in recent years, Catholic Central has expanded its mission and admissions by making a faith-centered education available to a more diverse group of students,” Juliano writes. Continue reading

The View from Room 205 – Chicago Public Media Looks at Poverty in an Elementary School

Image courtesy of Chicago Public Media

Can schools make the American dream real for poor kids?

That’s the question Chicago Public Media asks in its multimedia story, “The View From Room 205.”

“The little kids I’m going to tell you about are fourth graders,” reporter Linda Lutton says in the audio section. “They go to William Penn Elementary on Chicago’s West Side.”

On the first day of school, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, head of Chicago Public Schools at the time, tells the students, “There’s no dream you can’t achieve, if you stay focused and persistent.”

It’s this phrase, “focused and persistent,” that the story confronts by asking whether children and public schools can overcome the challenges of poverty on their own.

Continue reading