Harvard’s Education Redesign Lab report shares City Connects’ success

We’re proud that City Connects’ work in Salem, Mass., and in Chattanooga-Hamilton County, Tenn., is featured in a new report from the Education Redesign Lab at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

The report – “Sustaining Cross-Sector Systems of Opportunity for Children: Interim Lessons from the By All Means Consortium” – follows up on an earlier report about the work of the By Any Means necessary (BAM) communities, a network set up in 2016 to “create collaborative, cross-sector solutions to address the multifaceted needs of children.” 

Action at the city and state level is exciting because it shows how powerful local leaders can be in addressing the barriers that students face outside of school – from tooth aches to homelessness – so that they can thrive academically in school. 

Two of the Education Redesign Lab’s BAM members, Salem and Chattanooga-Hamilton County, are doing this work using City Connects.  Continue reading

Ohio incorporates City Connects into its state budget

Ohio has made crucial budget progress that includes City Connects.

Last May, when we blogged about Ohio, Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted had visited Chaminade Julienne High School in Dayton to see City Connects in action. 

“We believe that this is a replicable model that can be used in public schools and other schools across the state,” Husted told WHIO Television. “And we want the new money that’s being put into the budget to serve these students to go to programs like this.” 

At the time, Ohio’s Legislature was considering investing $550 million to provide “wraparound services” in the state’s schools, and City Connects provided a local example of how investment in evidence-based approaches positively impacts Ohio students. Continue reading

City Connects launches a new data system

We’ve done a major update of our technology platform. We’ve given it a new name, MyConnects. And we’ve made it a more powerful tool that’s easier to use – for implanting and sustaining City Connects, and for conducting research. Plus we have more updates and new features coming.

In the old days our City Connects data system relied on paper records. Over time our data moved to a server, then a website, and eventually to a software platform that was launched in 2011. 

“People would have to be heavily trained to know which information was available where,” Brian Ward, City Connects’ Manager for Technology Support and Administration, says. 

 Now, MyConnects lets us do this work more efficiently and effectively. 

To develop MyConnects, we surveyed our City Connects Coordinators; they are our front-line data collectors, gathering student information during whole class reviews and individual student reviews.  Continue reading

How graduate assistants add to our work

Every year, City Connects has a dozen or so Boston College graduate assistants who contribute to our work and share our knowledge. 

“One of the best things about having graduate assistants is that they really become true collaborators and members of our team,” Claire Foley, City Connects’ Associate Director, says.

“They are involved in all the different phases of our work: research, implementation, and policy. That includes collecting and analyzing data, literature reviews, organizing a community event, or sharing our research at conferences.” 

City Connects selects students from different Boston College programs including Counseling Psychology, Applied and Developmental Psychology, and MESA, the Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment program. 

In addition to learning about the City Connects model, graduate assistants contribute their own intellectual curiosity about how the model works and what makes it effective for students. 

One great example is Despina Petsagourakis, a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. Continue reading

Growing national action on expanding integrated student support

We know that getting students the right supports and opportunities at the right time helps them to do better in school.

That’s the core of City Connects’ model of providing integrated student support (ISS). 

The challenge is scaling this approach so it can reach more children, work that’s being done by the Center for Optimized Student Support at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. The center is home to City Connects.

In April, the Center for Optimized Student Support worked with the Center for Promise, part of the Boston University Wheelock College of Education, to release a policy brief — “Building Systems of Integrated Student Support A Policy Brief for Local and State Leaders” – that offers guidance to policymakers.

The brief points to “a wide range of activities to address the complex and changing needs of children, youth, and families,” including the work that hundreds of schools do to provide “wraparound” services, have a “collective impact,” and fund community schools and “Promise Neighborhoods.”  Continue reading

A teacher talks about City Connects

Julie Roberts and her students

Fifth grade teacher Julie Roberts has worked at Catholic Central Elementary School in Springfield, Ohio, for more than 20 years. We recently asked her about how City Connects works in her school. Here’s what she said.

What’s it like to work with Josh Richardt, her school’s City Connects Coordinator? 

“To have someone who can reach out to find resources for kids who need extra help or enrichment opportunities is extremely helpful, because that’s not something that as teachers we’re used to doing very often.” 

Enrichment is important because, “It can really help a student bloom if they find something that they’re good at that they haven’t been exposed to before.” 

How has the process of doing whole class reviews been? 

“At first, before we actually did the whole class review, I thought oh my gosh, how am I going to spend all morning on each student? But getting to talk about each student really opened my eyes to things I might not have been aware of, like personal or family challenges. Continue reading

Family engagement at City Connects

Family Literacy Night

Because parents are so vital to their children’s education, City Connects Coordinators work hard to engage them – work that helps build a stronger sense of community and that can help parents who are coping with a crisis.

“Just about every month of the school year, there is something we do here at the early childhood center for family engagement,” Stephanie Sanabria, the City Connects Coordinator at Springfield’s Early Childhood Education Center says. 

“Because the children are so young, they are closely tied to their parents, so we need parents’ participation and support. You can’t separate that out. That’s why the positive relationship that we form is so important.” 

And since Sanabria is in a preschool setting, her family engagement efforts are fun and varied. 

There’s Pumpkin Night in October and an evening of building gingerbread houses in December. In August, Sanabria will sometimes accompany teachers on home visits to provide Spanish language support. Continue reading

City Connects students meet the Minnesota Vikings

 Thank you to the Minnesota Vikings.

 Last week, the professional football team spent a day visiting the LIFE Prep School, a City Connects school in St. Paul.

Community service is a common part of the team’s life, and we’re grateful to them for being a City Connects community partner for the day. Their visit shows how important it is to connect students to shoes, health care, and community-based fun. Continue reading