City Connects helps tackle “The Great Divide”

Last fall, the Boston Globe told a tale of two students — Jada Pierre and Britney Mendez – that shows how harmful educational inequities can be. 

We read this article – part of the Globe’s series, “The Great Divide: Race, Class, and Opportunity in our Schools” – and we were struck anew by the stark description of educational inequalities across Massachusetts.

For Jada and Britney – both high school students and both the children of immigrants living in Boston – a key difference was where they went to high school. Jada attended Newton South, located in one of Boston’s wealthier suburbs. Britney went to Brighton High, “a floundering city school,” the Globe says, “where fewer than 30 percent of graduates earn a college degree or other credential within six years of graduating.” 

In 2016, state education officials labeled Brighton an “underperforming school,” which meant that the district had to come up with a turnaround plan. In addition, many of the school’s students have “significant unmet needs beyond campus, ranging from mental health concerns to immigration anxieties. Most are poor, and many arrive at Brighton after struggling at other schools.”  Continue reading

City Connects launches in Chattanooga/Hamilton County

Hamilton County School System photo by Dan Henry /


“We are getting services to kids faster and more intentionally than we were before,” Program Manager Jennifer Bronson says of how City Connects is working in Hamilton County, Tenn., home to a socio-economically diverse group of students in Chattanooga and surrounding suburban and rural areas. “We are being deliberate.” 

This is a story of how City Connects, which launched in eight county schools last September, is generating data and information that help schools understand students’ needs and meet them. 

Because of a community effort called Chattanooga 2.0, the region was already looking at workforce and education challenges. This led to joining By All Means, a program run by the Education Redesign Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) that helps close educational achievement gaps.  Continue reading

How City Connects could improve the Nation’s Report Card

Across the country, there are student opportunity gaps that — the evidence shows — City Connects can help close. 

We were reminded of the depth of these gaps late last year, when the U.S. Department of Education released “The Nation’s Report Card.” The report card shares the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, (the NAEP test) which is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics. 

And, unfortunately, the NAEP scores are troubling. 

“America’s fourth and eighth graders are losing ground in their ability to read literature and academic texts,” the New York Times reports. “Two out of three children did not meet the standards for reading proficiency.”  Continue reading

Happy Holidays!

See you in 2020!

The Sheridan Story gives Minnesota students food for the weekend

When City Connects Program Manager Laurie Acker meets with the coordinators she supervises in Minnesota, she routinely asks them a question:

“What services do you need that you don’t have a community partner for yet?” 

One common answer is food. Some students come to school hungry, go home hungry, and dread long weekends because their families are grappling with food insecurity. Others hoard the food they receive at lunch.

Community partners help address this kind of problem. They are an essential part of the City Connects model of getting the right services to the right students at the right time, and Acker has worked hard to build these connections. 

So when Acker heard about the need for food resources, she reached out to The Sheridan Story, a local nonprofit that fights childhood hunger, and, in 2014, Sheridan Story volunteers began providing food for the weekend at two City Connects schools.  Continue reading

City Connects students win a Sole Train running award

City Connects Coordinator Ashlei Alvarez does not enjoy running. When she was in school, she was the cross-country runner who hid in the bathroom. 

But every Friday morning, Alvarez goes running around the Boston Common with 30 fourth- and fifth-graders, two parents, and a number of staff members from the Josiah Quincy School where Alvarez works.


“My first year here I noticed that we didn’t have a lot of extracurricular, sports-based programs,” Alvarez says. So when a teacher at her school told her about Sole Train: Boston Runs Together, a running program “that’s about deconstructing the impossible,” Alvarez and Kelly Garcelon, a kindergarten teacher who does like running, brought the program into their school. 

Alvarez expected five students to sign up. Instead, 30 did. “We were shocked,” Alvarez says. Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the holiday!

City Connects: A decade of growth in Springfield

In 2010, City Connects launched in Springfield, Mass., and since then we’ve seen a decade of strong growth in the city. 

We recently shared this progress at a meeting of the Springfield Public Schools’ School Committee. 

“City Connects and Springfield have a strong partnership,” Anastasia Raczek says. She is the Associate Director of Research & Evaluation at the Center for Optimized Student Support, where City Connects is based. The center is part of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. 

City Connects’ growth in Springfield from implementation at a small scale into a districtwide solution offers a model for other districts considering how to address the non-academic and out-of-school needs of their students.”  Continue reading