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

Relationships matter in City Connects schools

It’s a new school year, so City Connects Coordinators are reinforcing existing relationships and building new ones. 

At Catholic Central Elementary School, in Springfield, Ohio, where City Connects’ Coordinator Josh Richardt works, he tells students in pre-k through fifth grade, “I am so glad you’re in school today.”

There is also a sign hanging in the hallway that says, “You belong here.” 

These messages weave students, especially new ones, firmly into the school’s fabric. And they build on a key finding from the developmental sciences: Relationships matter. Continue reading

The magic of connecting students to music

City Connects coordinators connect students to everything from eyeglasses to health services, but they also connect kids to music lessons. 

Enrichment is so important,” Mary Walsh, City Connects’ Executive Director says. “Students have to have basic services, but they also have to have opportunities for creative growth.”

One example is Micah, a fourth grader whose story we told in our 2018 Progress Report. His City Connects Coordinator connected him to a “music program that offers performance opportunities, which was a match for his specific musical interests, and because transportation was available.” Continue reading

City Connects is getting ready for school

City Connects Coordinators across the country are working hard to make this a great year for students and their families. 

We are excited to welcome two additional states, Tennessee and New York, to the City Connects network.

Over the summer, City Connects attended the 2019 American School Counselors Association Annual Conference in Boston, where we met school counselors, social workers, mental health professionals, and were able to talk about City Connects with many of the conference attendees. We are also hoping to be present at the 2020 National School Social Work Conference being held in March of 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. Additionally, for its Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget, Ohio added $675 million to implement and support effective “wraparound” services for students across the state. This legislation named City Connects as an acceptable use of funds based on the success of our ten-year partnership with schools in Dayton. Finally, City Connects is partnering with Ireland’s Department of Education and Skills and its Department of Children and Youth Affairs to plan the implementation of the City Connects in some of the most economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods in Dublin.

Here at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, home to City Connects, we’ve wrapped up our August Institute, a professional development program that introduces new coordinators to the City Connects model. 

And nationally, in the coming weeks, coordinators will be working with teachers, staff, and families to create personalized plans for every student, connecting children to the right services at the right time. 

In Salem, Mass., for example, coordinators are already:  Continue reading

Happy July 4th! The blog is going on vacation

Happy July 4th!

The blog is going on vacation. We’ll be back in August.