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

The Weekly Connect 10/16/17

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

These are some of the things we’ve been reading about:

The use of kindergarten assessments offers mixed results.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos shares her vision for “American education.”

A study of New York City’s Community Schools.

To read more, click on the following links. Continue reading

Building a Safe and Supportive Community at Boston’s Edison School

“We represent over 40 different countries and over the past two years, I have run the annual multicultural event, which has been a cool thing at the end of the year to celebrate diversity in our school,” Shelby Riley explained in a recent interview.

Riley is the one of the City Connects site coordinators in Boston’s Thomas Edison K-8 School, where nearly 60 percent of the Edison’s students come from disadvantaged homes, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and 49 percent are English Language Learners.

“With all that’s going on in our world, our families are very much affected by it,” Riley adds. “We had a lot of kids in fear of being deported.”

After brainstorming with Edison’s principal, Samantha Varano, Riley worked with a team of teachers to organize a multicultural event. It was based on a similar event done by one of the Edison’s community partners, EF (Education First).

Rather than feeding into fear, “we wanted to do more of the positive, the celebrating, and letting kids be proud.” Continue reading

Understanding Why City Connects Works

City Connects

We’ve known that students who participate in City Connects during elementary school do well on middle school assessments of academic achievement. However, we know less about why that’s true.

What leads to the academic gains that City Connects provides?

New research is shedding light on this question by looking at the impact of three things: how elementary school academic skills, elementary school thriving skills, and the amount of time spent in City Connects affect academic achievement.

These research findings will be presented tomorrow at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness.

One of the research papers that will be presented asks whether an additional year of City Connects boosts students’ academic outcomes. This paper will be presented by Diego Luna Bazaldua, a post-doctoral researcher who is part of an independent evaluation team of faculty and researchers within the Center for Optimized Student Support at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education.

Luna Bazaldua says this research is “as close as you can get to a real experiment.” That’s important since researchers haven’t run randomized trials on City Connects because we deliver the intervention to every child in a school. Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 12/12/16

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

These are some of the things we’ve been reading about:

The United States Department of Education has released: ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) regulations on testing as well as guidelines for students who are leaving the juvenile justice system

While homelessness is making it tough for children to attend school, the achievement gap between rich and poor students is closing.

 And as technology becomes a larger part of schoolwork, educators are warning that the “blue light” cast by mobile devices can threaten students’ sleep.

To read more, click on the following links. Continue reading

The Power of Whole Class Reviews

City Connects

It’s a Thursday morning at the John Winthrop Elementary School in Dorchester and Jaymie Silverman is multitasking. She’s on the phone, and she’s talking to a parent who just came in, checking in with a student, and preparing for an upcoming meeting. As the school’s City Connects Coordinator, Silverman is responsible for connecting all of the school’s 330 students to the tailored services they need to be successful inside and outside of school.

“We were identified as a school in which 60-90 percent of our students live in neighborhoods with exceptionally high levels of poverty and crime,” she explains.

Indeed, in 2013, Winthrop was declared a Level 4 school, the state’s designation for schools that are struggling based on “an analysis of four-year trends in absolute achievement, student growth, and academic improvement trends.” Continue reading

New Report Details Positive Outcomes for City Connects Students, Schools

Fifteen years ago, a small team of school, university, and community partners began working on creating the system of student support that is now City Connects. We were  hopeful that we would be able to demonstrate that addressing students’ out-of-school needs would lead to improvements in academic achievement and student well-being.

Our hopes have been more than realized. City Connects not only supports student thriving in school, but contributes to significant academic gains as well.  Our longitudinal research shows that for children who attended City Connects in elementary schools, the beneficial effects continue into high school. We can definitively say that the City Connects system of student support makes a positive and long-term difference in the lives of children.

We are pleased to announce the publication of The Impact of City Connects: Progress Report 2014, detailing results from the 2011-12 academic year in City Connects’ Boston and–for the first time–Springfield, MA, public schools. Highlights include:

  • Lower rates of dropout
    Students who attended City Connects elementary schools beginning in kindergarten have 50% lower odds of dropping out of high school than students never in a City Connects school. See page 25 of the report for the full analysis. 
  • Improved standardized test scores
    After leaving City Connects elementary schools at the end of grade 5, students go on to outperform their peers in middle school and achieve close to state averages on both English and Math statewide standardized test scores (MCAS). Benefits are especially pronounced for students most at risk, like English Language Learners. See page 22 of the report for the full analysis.
  • Supporting school transformation
    After one year of implementing City Connects in Springfield’s persistently underperforming (“turnaround”) elementary schools, the gap between these schools and other Springfield schools was significantly reduced in grades 3, 4, and 5 for both English and Math MCAS. See page 35 of the report for the full analysis.

“The data in this report make clear that thoughtful strategies and rigorous practices that provide non-academic supports for students can make a significant difference toward closing the achievement gap for children living in poverty,” said Mary E. Walsh, Ph.D., Executive Director of City Connects and the Kearns Professor at the Boston College Lynch School of Education. “Schools have always made efforts to address students’ out-of-school needs. This report shows that using evidence to inform practice, making effective use of community resources, and tailoring a plan for every student can alter trajectories for children. It has implications for changing the way school counselors, social workers, and other student support staff meet the needs of students.”

For more information:

Big Sisters Recognizes Quincy School as Community Partner of the Year

Mentoring has an overwhelmingly positive impact on children, reducing rates of high school dropout and increasing enrollment in post-secondary education. City Connects School Site Coordinators regularly refer students to community organizations that provide mentoring opportunities. One of our key mentoring partners is the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, which serves more than 2,600 girls throughout Greater Boston.

Catherine Riede, Nicole Young, and Judy tk (L to R)
Left to right: City Connects School Site Coordinators Catherine Riede and Nicole Young with Judy Ellman, Manger of School-based Mentoring for Big Sisters of Greater Boston (photo courtesy of Big Sisters of Greater Boston)

At their annual meeting on May 12, the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston named the Josiah Quincy Elementary School as its 2014 Community Partner of the Year. The award recognizes the Quincy’s sustained commitment to Big Sister’s mission to serve girls and families through mentoring programs. The award was accepted by Catherine Riede and Nicole Young, the City Connects School Site Coordinators at the Quincy. Catherine and Nicole serve as the primary contacts for Big Sister at the Quincy, one of Big Sister’s longest-standing and largest partners. The pair were also recognized for their instrumental role in supporting, strengthening, and promoting Big Sisters within the school.

“Our partners at Josiah Quincy have been advocates for Big Sister and have truly welcomed us into their community,” said Deb Re, Chief Executive Officer at Big Sister Association of Greater Boston. “They have not only demonstrated a real interest in getting to know the nearly 60 matches who meet at their school, but also have hosted lunch groups, invited Big Sisters to speak at their career day, and distributed information about Big Sister in their newsletter to parents. We are so grateful for their committed partnership, and look forward to continuing to grow the number of girls we serve at Josiah Quincy in the coming years.”

Congratulations to the Quincy, and thank you to Big Sisters for the important work you do!

For more information: