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

Media coverage of City Connects

City Connects is in the news. An article in EdSurge and a brief in Education Dive tell stories of how we get the right services to the right child at the right time.

EdSurge’s article – “Meet the Support Network Addressing Out-Of-School Challenges for Every Student”focuses on Boston’s Medell Elementary School where a kindergartener was missing a lot of school. The child’s teacher reached out to Madeline Gillespie, the school’s City Connects Coordinator, and Gillespie took action.

As EdSurge explains:

“Gillespie spoke with the girl’s mother and learned they were living in a shelter and had no way to get to school. It was less than a mile away, so the family wouldn’t ordinarily qualify for free transportation. But shelters are a special exception—students are eligible to ride on a school bus. Equipped with this information, Gillespie helped set up regular pickups and drop offs, and just like that, attendance improved.” Continue reading

City Connects fills the mental health service gap

Kirsten Rene, Despina Petsagourakis, and Anna Hamilton

“We wanted to look at the students that are often missed, students who are in what is known as the mental health service gap. They aren’t being identified and they aren’t receiving services,” Despina Petsagourakis explains.

To do this, Petsagourakis, a graduate student at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, and her fellow graduate students Kirsten Rene and Anna Hamilton, were part of a team that conducted research on 6,000 students in 15 high-poverty elementary schools in Springfield, Mass.

“The goal is to see if the prevention and intervention system and the community collaboration and coordination that City Connects involves would address students’ needs and deliver support.”

The unmet need is considerable. The poster explains that, “Seventy-five percent of children in need of mental health services do not receive them, with disparities in service provision existing particularly for marginalized populations.” Continue reading

Jordan Lawson brings the statistical and the personal to City Connects

Jordan Lawson thought he was going to be a clinical psychologist.

But after learning more about the field, he discovered psychometrics – and the idea of using statistics for social good.

“Statistics is interesting in and of itself, but sometimes, people, myself included, can lose sight of the fact that it’s just a tool that could be used for good,” Lawson says.

Now he’s at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development where he is a doctoral student in the Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment Department and a research associate who is helping to address one of City Connects’ data analysis challenges. Continue reading