Watch this


We’re proud to share one of our videos on how City Connects works. Principals, community partners, and City Connects staff all help tell the story of meeting students nonacademic needs to help them thrive in school.

“We’ve been able to transition from a school in crisis to a stable school focusing on literacy thanks to the support from City Connects.”
– Mike Sabin, Former Principal, the John W. McCormack Middle School in Boston

“Just in the last two months, we provided a new pair of shoes to each of our children and a new winter coat. For impoverished families, it’s a big deal.”
– Robert Kordenbrock, Red Oak After School Program, Boston-Chinatown Neighborhood Center 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

Public support for providing students needed services

It’s not surprising that a recent poll on public schools found that people think schools should do a better job of preparing students.

What’s striking is the finding on how to do this work.

“More than 85 percent of all Americans believe schools should provide mental health services, according to the latest PDK poll, a survey of the public’s attitudes about the nation’s schools,” the website RealClearEducation reports.

“What’s more, 79 percent think schools should provide general health services to students who need them, according to the survey. Support for wraparound services was even high across party lines, with 68 percent of Republicans—and 65 percent of “strong conservatives” —agreeing that schools should provide them.”

In addition, 92 percent support the idea of public schools offering after-school programs.

This finding comes from the “49th Annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools,” which “is based on a random, representative, 50-state sample of 1,588 adults interviewed by cell or landline telephone, in English or Spanish, in May 2017.” 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

Accelerating success: City Connects in Hartford

Girl Scouts Bridge Celebration. Photo: Courtesy of Charlene Diaz


In the Hartford Public Schools (HPS), City Connects isn’t just a partner. We’re part of Hartford’s Acceleration Agenda.

The agenda – which is itself part of a larger strategic operating plan — is an effort “to address educational equity and achievement by optimizing support for schools and creating consistency of practice.”

The goal is to “accelerate learning by taking a case-management approach to personalize solutions for all of our students, classrooms and schools.”

It’s a promising vision of achieving district-wide success one student and one school at a time in a system where the majority of students come from low-income families.

City Connects coordinators started working in Hartford’s schools last year, and initially there was a learning curve, Charlene Perez Diaz explains. Continue reading

Helping homeless students

In Boston – and in all the communities we serve — some of the most vulnerable students are homeless. These children may be doubled up with relatives or living in shelters or hotels. They may be hungry or struggling with asthma. They may need coats or shoes.

“The goal is to make sure basic needs are met,” Joe King says, including food, clothes and transportation, “so that Children can stay in school.” King, a City Connects program manager, supervises the school-based coordinators who work directly with children and families.

The need is substantial. Boston Public Schools’ officials estimate that they educate some 3,000 homeless students.

“The difficult part can be identifying which families are homeless,” King notes, because some families don’t share their housing status. “So, a lot of the work is relationship-building so families feel comfortable saying that they’re displaced.” Continue reading

A new policy brief on state action


This summer, we shared City Connects’ story at the National Conference of State Legislatures, a gathering of elected officials and their staff members. As we explained at the conference, City Connects work shows that students can achieve in school when the obstacles that they face outside school are addressed.

We explain how in a new policy brief for state lawmakers.

The brief — “Improving Student Achievement by Meeting Children’s Comprehensive Needs: State Policy Options” — explains:

“State policymakers can support children’s healthy development and learning, narrow achievement gaps, reduce dropout rates, and make it possible for communities to more efficiently use existing resources…”

Several states are taking steps in the right direction. In 2013, New Mexico passed legislation that lays out a plan for connecting school children to community resources.

To keep its schools informed about funding options, Maryland passed a law in 2016 that requires the Department of Education to notify districts about federal Title I funds that can be  used for, as the brief notes, “the coordination of school and community resources.”

And here in Massachusetts, the FY 2018 budget appropriations call for the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission to incorporate “‘principles of effective practice for integrating student supports’ into its tools for districts,” the brief says.

States are also using other strategies such as removing barriers to resource integration for students — and building infrastructure at the state level to create efficiencies and support effective practices.

Drawing on research about City Connects, the brief explains:

“Evidence demonstrates that integrated approaches to student support, when implemented with adherence to principles of effective practice, can significantly narrow achievement gaps and improve dropout rates for the growing numbers of students living in disadvantaged circumstances.”

These kinds of state actions can create conditions that help schools boost children’s learning, improve their long-term outcomes, and set examples that other states can follow.