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

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

City Connects students pay a visit to Boston College

Recently, Danielle Morrissey, the City Connects Coordinator at Boston’s Thomas J. Kenny elementary school, brought the Kenny’s fifth graders to visit Boston College so that they could see what college is all about. 

“The goal was to motivate and provide a learning opportunity for the students to further understand why we are talking so much about Perseverance, Responsibility, Integrity, Dedication to your Education, and Effort (our PRIDE values) and how their future is connected to these values,” Morrissey says.  Continue reading

Sharing what we know at the ASCA Annual Conference

City Connects is going to the ASCA Annual Conference, which is being held in Boston from June 29 to July 2, 2019. ASCA is the American School Counselor Association.

City Connects will have a booth at the event, and we hope readers of this blog will come see us.

In addition, Lianzhe Zheng, a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, will speak at a session called “Positive School Climate for Immigrant Students” which will cover how the challenges that these students face are associated with mental and physical health problems that can hurt their academic performance.

“At the Lynch School, sharing what we know is an essential part of our work. And City Connects is excited to have a booth at this year’s ASCA Conference in Boston” said Ryan Hand, City Connects’ Communications Manager. “We are looking forward to spreading the word about our evidence-based practice for school counselors, and we invite any attendees of the conference to drop by!”

The power and untapped potential of providing integrated student support

“To the children whom our school system and our society have failed for far too long.”

That’s the sobering dedication that co-authors Elaine Weiss and Paul Reville chose for their new book, “Broader, Bolder, Better: How Schools and Communities Help Students Overcome the Disadvantages of Poverty.”

In this book, Weiss and Reville call on schools and communities to stop failing by creating “systems of integrated student supports (ISS) for all children.”

The two authors say it is crucial to create ISS systems that support the whole child — like City Connects and others in the field — because of the nation’s history of mediocre policy achievements.

“Decades of education reform efforts have yielded modest if any improvements in most places where poverty is present,” they write. “To be sure, there are outliers, schools and individuals defying the odds, but on average, we still have an iron-clad correlation between socioeconomic status and education achievement and attainment.” Continue reading

A new teacher writes about City Connects

Elizabeth McKernan

By the time Elizabeth McKernan graduated from Boston College in 2018, she had been a student teacher at Brighton High School, Milton High School, and Waltham High School.

In her senior year, she was already taking graduate school classes at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development and working on her master’s degree, and she was determined to have an impact on students.

“That’s always been my perspective on teaching: If I can make one student’s life a little bit better then I’m doing it right,” she says.

Last month, McKernan made her mark in educational policy with an opinion piece in CommonWealth magazine — “Customized student support can level the playing field” — that begins:

“As a new high school teacher, I paid attention when educators, mayors, and Patriots players gathered before the Joint Committee on Education last month to testify on behalf of high needs students in Massachusetts. Continue reading

A roadmap for policymakers: a new brief shares lessons about boosting students’ success

A new policy brief, written by our colleagues at Boston College’s Center for Optimized Student Support, shares the lessons of City Connects with policymakers, explaining how integrated student support can ignite success even when students face poverty, mental health challenges, traumatic experiences, and other out-of-school burdens.

The brief – “Building Systems of Integrated Student Support A Policy Brief for Local and State Leaders” – explains the problems policymakers face:

“When leaders examine the existing tangle of programs, services, agencies, and funding streams in the context of deep needs among children and persistent academic achievement and opportunity gaps, impactful ways to transform chaotic service delivery systems are often hard to identify and harder to realize.”

Fortunately, over the last fifteen years, “insights from the sciences of child and youth development, experimentation in communities, and mounting outcomes data point to an approach that is producing results: integrated student support.” Continue reading

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