City Connects is based on a powerful principle: Help students thrive in school, particularly in high-poverty areas, by addressing the out-of-school barriers that students face.
We do this by looking at four domains: academics, social-emotional well being, physical health, and family.
One key outcome of this work is that students do better academically. As our 2022 Progress Report explains, research findings show that:
“At the elementary level, students enrolled in schools implementing City Connects experience better academic outcomes than their peers, including improved effort, better grades, better attendance, and improved performance on state tests. In middle and high school, students who previously experienced City Connects in elementary school outperform comparison peers on indicators of educational success and life chances, including positive impact on retention in grade, chronic absenteeism, and high school dropout.”
We see this academic success in many City Connects schools. One example is Avondale Meadows Middle School in Indianapolis, Ind..
“I just try to figure out where the needs are,” Chatarra Moreland, a City Connects Coordinator at Avondale Meadows, said last week in a Fox 59 news story. “I put resources in place for the family to try to eliminate needs or barriers they may have to receiving a great education at Avondale.”
Last year, thanks to our partnership with Marian University’s Center for Vibrant Schools, City Connects launched in 30 public and charter schools in Indiana.
This year we are in 80 public, charter, and non-public Indiana schools.
This exciting growth has created more opportunities to serve more students – and it has expanded City Connects’ community of practitioners.
Among Indiana’s new City Connects schools are non-public parochial schools as well as nondenominational Christian and Islamic schools and a private school without any religious affiliation.
This growth has been driven in part by Covid-19 relief funds – Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools – from the U.S. Department of Education that were given to schools where at least 20 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch. In some of Indiana’s City Connects schools, more than 40 percent of students receive these lunch subsidies, and in other schools more than 80 percent do.
This crucial support comes at a time when schools in Indiana – and across the country – are coping with learning loss, absenteeism, and students who are struggling to behave in age-appropriate ways. Indiana is also taking a hard look at its NAEP scores, to understand the pandemic’s impact on student learning.
During a career that has stretched from teaching to becoming a principal, Beth Looney has seen education and City Connects from all sides.
Now, Looney is City Connects’ Senior Manager for Coaching and Data-Informed Practice, and she’s working hard to change outcomes for students.
“I taught elementary and middle school and special education,” Looney recalls of her early career, “and the longer I was in the classroom, the more I noticed the challenges in education. I felt powerless in doing all that I wanted to for students. I also recognized that it’s hard for one person to change the system.
“I wanted to be able to do something bigger in education.”