Grant Awarded to Study Impact of Student Support on Immigrant Children

Researcher Eric Dearing, PhD, associate professor of applied developmental psychology at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and member of the City Connects evaluation board, has been awarded a 3-year, $150,000 Young Scholar award from the Foundation for Child Development (FCD) for his project, “Student Support in High-Poverty Elementary Schools and the Achievement of English Language Learners.” This award is the first for the newly renamed Center for Optimized Student Support at Boston College, which is dedicated to developing the most effective ways to address the out-of-school factors that influence how students learn and thrive in school.

Dr. Dearing’s work will be focused on immigrant children who are English Language Learners (ELLs) receiving student support through City Connects. Nearly 25% of schoolchildren in the United States are immigrants or the children of immigrants who are disproportionately likely to grow up poor and attend schools that are not properly equipped to promote their learning. Dr. Dearing’s study will inform policy decision makers on the value of systematic student support for improving the lives of immigrant children, in and out of school.

“Immigrant students who are learning English are the fastest growing group of students in US schools and, as a group, they face exceptional barriers to school success,” said Dr. Dearing. “From a research perspective, this award is very exciting because it will allow me to take advantage of natural experiments and quasi-experiments as evaluation tools, providing the first careful examination of whether systematic student support can be used to promote the achievement of immigrant children.”

Dr. Dearing will focus on four specific research questions:

  1. Is the achievement of immigrant children improved through systematic student support?
  2. Does child English proficiency moderate treatment effects such that ELLs demonstrate exceptionally positive treatment effects?
  3. Is the accuracy of special education referrals for immigrant children, particularly ELLs, improved by City Connects?
  4. What is the optimal constellation of student support services for immigrant children?

The FCD’s Young Scholars Program (YSP) focuses on understanding the changing faces of the nation’s children as reflected in the current demography of the United States. YSP seeks to support a new generation of scholars conducting research on the development of children in immigrant families from birth to age ten, particularly those who are living in low-income families.

For more information:

  • Follow FCD on twitter @fcdusorg
  • Read the full press release here (pdf)

Reading at Home Increases School Readiness

Reading books with parents is an example of “home learning,” which a new paper shows can improve low-income children’s readiness for school. The study, published in Child Development by researchers from New York University, surveyed 1,850 children age 0-5 whose households were living at or below the federal poverty line. They found that differences in a child’s home learning environment predicted his or her school readiness. Children who weren’t exposed to literary activities or learning materials at home were more likely to have delays in language and reading skills in pre-kindergarten.

“…This work highlights the importance of targeting children’s learning environments early in development. By the start of the 2nd year (15 months), the experiences parents provide their children may be solidified into patterns of engagement that will either continue to support or impede children’s emerging skills,” wrote the study’s authors.

For more information:

  • Read the entire study here (pdf)

Social Factors and Mortality Rates

A paper published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that the number of deaths attributable to social factors in the U.S. is comparable to those attributed to disease, injury, and behavioral causes. Dr. Sandro Galea of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and colleagues conducted a literature review of studies published between 1980 and 2007 to calculate the relative risks of mortality from social factors like education, poverty, health insurance status, employment, racism, housing conditions, and early childhood stress. The paper, “Estimated Deaths Attributable to Social Factors in the United States,” found that approximately 245,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2000 were attributable to low education, 162,000 to low social support, and 133,000 to individual poverty.

According to a press release about the study, “overall, 4.5% of U.S. deaths were found to be attributable to poverty, midway between previous estimates of 6% and 2.3%. The risks associated with both poverty and low education were higher for individuals aged 25 to 64 than for those 65 or older.”

“The number of deaths the researchers calculated as attributable to low education is comparable to the number caused by heart attacks, which was the leading cause of U.S. deaths in 2000,” Galea said. “These findings argue for a broader public health conceptualization of the causes of mortality and an expansive policy approach that considers how social factors can be addressed to improve the health of populations.”

For more information:

More “Getting In” Series Installments

Getting InThe Boston Globe ran two articles over the weekend in its “Getting In” series about the Boston Public Schools’ lottery. The first, “A daily diaspora, a scattered street,” focuses on the societal and neighborhood impact of the geographic scattering school choice produces. The Globe focused on one street in Roslindale, where  “… 19 school-age children who live on this one city block in Roslindale will migrate to a dizzying array of 15 public, private, and charter schools, from West Roxbury to Wellesley, traveling a combined 182 miles each day. ”

The second story, “The high price of school assignment,” zeroes in on the bottom line. What’s it cost to transport all 32,200 of Boston’s students to school every day for a year? With 691 buses, the tally is $80 million, roughly 10% of the district’s total school budget.

For more information:

  • See our previous coverage of the series here, here,  and here

The Freedom to Learn: Sam Chaltain TED Talk

Another TED talk worth watching: Sam Chaltain is a DC-­based writer, educator, and organizational change consultant. He works with schools, school districts, and public and private sector companies to help them create healthy, high-­functioning learning environments. In this talk, Chaltain discusses the three most important questions he believes we need to be asking if we want to create schools worthy of the 21st century and our ongoing commitment to a democratic society.

For more information:

Community Partners Health & Wellness Breakfast: Video Posted

Over on our YouTube channel, we’ve posted video of the speakers’ presentations from our May 11 community breakfast, where the topic was “Creating Dynamic School Partnerships to Increase Health & Wellness of Students.” The 5 videos include:

  • Dr. Mary Walsh, executive director of City Connects, discussing  the critical roles health and fitness play in student success, as well as City Connects data about health and wellness services students receive.
  • Dr. Linda Grant, medical director, Boston Public Schools,  discussing prevention, intervention, and management strategies that schools can and are using to support children.
  • Jill Carter, executive director of health & wellness, Boston Public Schools, discussing initiatives in her department to support health and wellness across all schools in the district.
  • Simon Ho, principal, Josiah Quincy Elementary School, discussing how he implements a comprehensive and coordinated health and wellness program for students at the Quincy.
  • Patrice DiNatale, director of new practice at City Connects, discussing how City Connects integrates health as a core component of student support.

City Connects in Education Week’s ‘Futures of School Reform’ blog

As we wrote about earlier this week, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville has been writing this week about the importance of addressing non-school factors in education reform. Today, he authored a blog post, “Bolder, Broader Action: Strategies for Closing the Poverty Gap,” that mentions City Connects as a successful strategy for addressing out-of-school factors. As Secretary Reville wrote:

“… the challenge now is to translate our analysis into action by implementing a series of strategies, coupled with measurable outcomes, to ensure success.”

We feel strongly about evidence informing our practice and have conducted rigorous evaluation of our work. Learn more about City Connects’ positive impact on:

Out-of-School Factors In the News

Central to our philosophy at City Connects is that the out-of-school factors affecting students have a great impact on their ability to learn and thrive in school. (You can read about how we address out-of-school factors for children here.)

Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute has written beautifully on the subject, most recently in an issue brief, “How to Fix our Schools.” In the brief, Rothstein reiterates research that demonstrates only one-third of the achievement gap in schools is due to quality of instruction.

“Decades of social science research have demonstrated that differences in the quality of schools can explain about one-third of the variation in student achievement. But the other two-thirds is attributable to non-school factors,” he wrote.

Two great articles published recently advocated for addressing out-of-school factors. Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville and Jeffrey R. Henig, professor of political science and education at Columbia University, jointly authored a commentary, “Why Attention Will Return to Non-School Factors,” in Education Week. Reville and Henig wrote:

“Our vision of the future of education reform is simple: American schools won’t achieve their goal of ‘all students at proficiency’ unless they attend to nonschool factors.”

They propose a multi-tiered solution comprising data that links student outcomes to services, quantifiable indicators of success that are measured long-term, and benchmarks that can provide feedback on student progress. Reville wrote an accompanying blog post, “Closing the Poverty Gap: The Way Forward for Education Reform,” about the relationship between poverty and student achievement in Massachusetts.

In the New York Times, Lisa Belkin considers attempts to increase parental engagement in schools in her article, “Whose Failing Grade Is It?“. Belkin introduces several pieces of state legislation aimed at mandating parents’ involvement in their children’s schools as a means to improve student performance. Belkin quotes Diane Ravitch, an education historian, who argues that parent education should be targeted to parents when their children are born up to age five. Ravitch goes on to say:

“…We need to acknowledge that the root problem is poverty.”

These two pieces call attention to the impact out-of-school factors can have on children–something we believe in strongly at City Connects. Our systematic approach to supporting students strengths and needs has proven effective; you can read about our results here.

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