Sharing what we’re learning: How we can help immigrant students succeed

At City Connects, we always share what we’re learning. It’s a vital way to promote student success.

Last month, Eric Dearing participated in a webinar on immigrant children, sharing what we know about their outcomes. (He starts speaking at the 35:43-minute mark.) Dearing is a professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and an independent researcher who has assessed City Connects’ impact.

We know that many first-generation immigrant children who are new to the country face challenges. Dearing explained during the webinar, which was hosted by the Foundation for Child Development. Poverty presents “multi-pronged risks for immigrant children at nearly every level of context in which their lives are embedded.. whether we’re talking about neighborhoods or the schools or the families or the homes in which they are living.” Many of these students can also struggle in school because they are also English Language Learners. Continue reading

City Connects is recognized for its impact

We are happy to announce that Results for America, a national nonprofit, has added Mary Walsh and City Connects to its Moneyball for Government Team, a list of leaders and organizations that are using data to solve problems.

Sports fans know that “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” is a book by Michael Lewis. It tells the stories of how the Oakland A’s, a baseball team with a limited budget, gave up on conventional wisdom and started using a statistical approach to evaluate and recruit players. Data, in other words, helped the A’s become a better team and win games.

In the same vein, Results for America uses its “Moneyball for Government” designation to encourage “governments at all levels to increase their use of evidence and data when investing limited taxpayer dollars. By playing Moneyball, we can improve outcomes for young people, their families and communities.” Continue reading

City Connects’ Community Partner Breakfast

“Finally, finally, finally, the whole child is back on the agenda and that’s very, very exciting for all of us in this room,” Mary Walsh said last week at City Connects’ annual Community Partner Breakfast.

Educators and community leaders attended the breakfast, which was held at Suffolk University Law School. The theme was “Supporting the Whole Child.”

The keynote speaker was Liz Walker, a former television news anchor and currently the Senior Pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church. She was followed by a panel discussion that featured four school and community partners who work with City Connects.

For Walsh, the breakfast was a chance to rally the troops – the teachers, the City Connects coordinators, and the community partners who provide an array of services — and explain how their work is helping Boston’s students. Continue reading

Continuous improvement at City Connects

“We’ve been doing continuous improvement work for one and a half years,” Jessica Petrie explains. Petrie is the Continuous Improvement Specialist at City Connects.

Continuous improvement is the demanding work that boils down to two questions: How is City Connects doing? And, how can it be better?

“We are constantly learning,” says City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh. “Continuously improving the practice allows us to identify challenges, and turn them into opportunities so that we can better serve our students, our teachers, our schools.”

Continuous Improvement: Individual Student Reviews

For City Connects, the first continuous improvement project started organically when the implementation team noticed that some schools weren’t meeting benchmarks for individual student reviews or ISRs. Continue reading

Johns Hopkins University looks at City Connects

Last month the Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Education Policy hosted a conversation in Baltimore on “A Holistic Approach to Student Needs: Community Schools and Integrated Student Supports.” The event featured City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh, the Daniel E. Kearns Professor of Urban Education and Innovation at the Boston College Lynch School of Education.

The event’s central question: What do we know about how can schools “nurture students’ intellectual progress” and address “the substantial non-school stressors that often interfere with learning?”

As it turns out, we know quite a bit. Research continues to show that addressing children’s out-of-school problems helps them succeed in school.

The conversation considered a variety of programs that help students “from community schools to Integrated Student Support models” – and how these programs meet students’ academic, emotional, and physical needs? Continue reading

City Connects inside community schools

Community schools and City Connects are philosophically aligned programs — both help students thrive by meeting their comprehensive needs. The approaches are different but also complementary, and one of the places where they’re working well together is in nine New York City schools run by the Children’s Aid Society in Harlem, Staten Island, the South Bronx, and Washington Heights.

The Children’s Aid Society launched its community schools in 1992. These schools are “both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources,” the Coalition for Community Schools explains on its website. That might mean keeping a school open in the evenings to serve as a community center or bringing afterschool or health services into the school building.

City Connects dovetails with this work by providing a systematic way to connect these and other school- and community-resources to the right child at the right time, over time.

In the South Bronx, Ron Cope, a Children’s Aid Society Program Manager, works with City Connects staff members in four community schools. They say that City Connects’ model helps improve community school implementation in four key ways: Continue reading

New research on lowering high school dropout rates

To protect students from the risk of dropping out of high school, start by helping them when they are in elementary school.

That’s the finding of a new brief that updates earlier findings done by researchers at the Center for Optimized Student Support in Boston College’s Lynch School of Education.

The brief — “Reducing High School Dropout through Elementary School Student Support: An Analysis Including Important Student Subgroups” – explains:

“Students who attended elementary schools implementing City Connects beginning in kindergarten or first grade are less likely to drop out of school in high school than comparison students (those who never attended a City Connects school).” Continue reading

How City Connects Keeps Learning

Graduate student researchers Despina Petsagourakis and Agnes Chung

City Connects is constantly learning. We learn from the experiences of our City Connects coordinators and the national array of schools and communities in which we work. And because City Connects is based in Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, we are also learning from different scientific fields about how we can make City Connects better. Once we have this knowledge, we go out and share it.

This cycle of learning was on display last week when Agnes Chung and Romita Mitra – both graduate students at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education – went to a Harvard Graduate School of Education conference to share two research posters about City Connects. The theme of the conference was “Spanning the Divide: Building Bridges through Research.” Continue reading