National conferences feature City Connects


While Coordinators bring the power of City Connects to students, it is academic researchers at Boston College who share the story of City Connects at conferences, so that others can learn from what we do.

“An advantage of City Connects being located at a university is access to researchers who can evaluate the program’s impact,” Anastasia Raczek says of City Connects, which is a part of the Center for Optimized Student Support. Raczek is the Associate Director of Research & Evaluation of the center, which is at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development.

This spring, researchers have shared five presentations about City Connects at education research conferences in the United States and Canada.

The research was conducted by both Boston College professors and graduate students.

“Graduate education is a vital part of our mission, and we’re excited about the research our students have done and shared at these conferences,” Raczek says. “Because they come from different departments – education, measurement and statistics, developmental psychology, counseling psychology, and curriculum studies — they bring a diverse range of professional viewpoints.” Continue reading

Harvard’s Education Redesign Lab cites City Connects’ for developing plans that promote students’ personal success

For decades, schools have relied on a “one-size fits all paradigm” that fails to meet “the particular, complex, and varied needs of children and youth living in poverty.”

That’s an observation from a new report from the Education Redesign Lab at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. The report says schools should abandon this approach to poverty and instead devise personalized “success plans” that meet individual students’ needs.

One example of how to do this, the report notes, is City Connects.

The report,Success Plans: Promising Tools for Customizing Student Supports and Opportunities”, says that these plans will “capture in- and out-of-school strengths and needs of children and youth; connect to the infrastructure that can match them with tailored services and opportunities; and seamlessly coordinate education and community resources to increase access to equitable opportunities.” Continue reading

City Connects takes root in Indianapolis

As City Connects expands in Indianapolis, Ind., we’re learning more about the power of local innovations.

Last September, City Connects launched in three Indianapolis schools, and we added two new features: a unique funding source and partnership with Marian University.

“I learned about City Connects years ago when I implemented this program in Springfield, Ohio, at a pre-K to 12 Catholic school system,” Dr. Ken Britt says. He is the Senior Vice President and Dean of Klipsch Educators College at Marian University. “I wanted to bring the program to Indiana because I believe that, coupled with our focus on teacher and leadership development, comprehensive student support can be a game-changer for young people. And there is no better program than City Connects.” Continue reading

City Connects produces a solid return on investment

Thanks to years of research, we know that City Connects’ model of providing integrated student support helps improve students’ attendance, grades, and test scores.

And thanks to recent research we know that City Connects yields an impressive return on investment (ROI). As we’ve blogged, Henry Levin and A. Brooks Bowden, of the Columbia University Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education, did a benefit-cost analysis of City Connects, and found strikingly positive results. For every $1 invested in City Connects there’s a $3 ROI. This calculation includes the cost of City Connects and the cost of the services – such as food, clothing, health care, and afterschool programs – that children and families receive.

Released in 2015, this study, also found that comparing the cost of City Connects alone to the benefits it generates yields an $11 return on every $1 invested. Continue reading

Dental care and fire trucks: Making preschools service-rich

Think of Stephanie Sanabria as a one-woman fiber optic network. As a City Connects Coordinator, she connects 11 classrooms in Springfield’s Early Childhood Education Center with resources across the city and brings those resources right into the building where it’s easy for young children and their parents to access them.

This building-based approach is an essential part of how City Connects works in Springfield’s early education settings to meet children’s needs and build on their strengths.

“We adapted City Connects for the early childhood years because that’s such an important stage developmentally,” Anastasia Raczek explains. Raczek is the Associate Director of Research & Evaluation at the Center for Optimized Student Support, which is based at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development.

We used funding from the Better Way Foundation to launch this effort in Catholic Schools. The first program launched in 2012 in Boston. Today, City Connects serves more than 2,000 pre-K children in programs across the country. Continue reading

Closing “relationship gaps”

A new book looks at how schools can use systematic relationship-building to help students succeed, and it highlights the work being done by City Connects.

“School is an institution responsible for providing the foundation of equal opportunity on top of which our meritocracy can stand proudly,” Julia Freeland Fisher writes in the book, “Who You Know: Unlocking Innovations That Expand Students’ Networks.”

“But playing society’s equalizer is no easy task,” Fisher adds. “Our schools are being asked to level exceedingly complex and unequal terrain.”

Fisher is the Director of Education Research at the Clayton Christensen Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that builds on the ideas of Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor. Continue reading

The Salem Children’s Charity weaves City Connects into its heartwarming history of helping kids

City Connects staff at the Salem Children’s Charity party: Brad Maloon, Mia Riccio, Ellen Wingard, Sari Rudolph, Marlene Lunt, and Erika Griffin.

One powerful feature of City Connects is that we help community partners reach the children they want to serve.

In the case of the Salem Children’s Charity, we also help community organizations manage changing times. Here’s the story of how that happened.

“The way it started,” Brendan Walsh says, telling the 25-year-old story of the children’s charity, “is that there were four guys, all of whom had some connection to the restaurant business in Salem, and it was coming up on Christmas.”

“They said, you know, we should do something for kids at Christmas.”

The four friends decided to throw a party where they passed the hat and collected more than $1,000.

Then they asked themselves: What do we do with the money? Continue reading

Anticipating students’ needs with Cradles to Crayons

One of City Connects’ longstanding community partners is Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit that collects new and nearly new clothes and distributes them to children in need. The organization has worked with City Connects for more than nine years.

In the fall of 2017, Cradles to Crayons reached out to City Connects and asked us to help out with a pilot program that they had in mind. Cradles to Crayons wanted to achieve a higher level of services by creating a new, seasonal delivery schedule for its KidsPacks – the bags full of clothes, coats, shoes, boots, books, and school supplies. The organization wanted to launch the program in City Connects schools, building on our existing relationship.

The pilot started at the beginning of this school year. In close coordination with our Coordinators, it serves more than 100 students across five Boston public schools. Students receive a back-to-school backpack with school supplies in September — and three more deliveries during the year containing clothing for fall, winter, and spring.

The goal of having these predictable deliveries is to create a system that’s better able to anticipate families’ needs and reach more students. Continue reading