The Weekly Connect 12/26/16

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:

Social-emotional learning is gaining ground across states as educators increasingly see it as a way to give students an edge.

A Texas Supreme Court ruling that found the state’s inequitable school funding to be constitutional is now bumping up against research that says investing more money does improve educational outcomes. “States that send additional money to their lowest-income school districts see significantly more academic improvement in those districts than states that don’t.”

If schools started an hour later, and teenagers got more sleep, their scores on standardized tests would rise, researchers say.

Last week, researchers found that schools had more law enforcement officers than school counselors. Now Education Week reports that states are beefing up their school counseling corps.

And Massachusetts gets credit for building a world-class school system, according to the Ed Week Top Performers Blog.

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

Year in review: City Connects by the numbers, 2013-14

As we prepare for the opening of school, we would like to take a moment and reflect on the accomplishments of the past year. In 2013-14, we are proud to have partnered with 56 schools in 6 districts across 3 states, where City Connects staff linked 17,500 students to 105,000 services and enrichment opportunities. We are looking forward to another wonderful year in our Massachusetts, Ohio, and New York sites in 2014-15!

2013-14 City Connects by the numbers

 

City Connects is an evidence-based system of student support that makes available to all students a wide array of enrichment, early intervention, and intensive intervention services. In each school, a full-time student support professional (a licensed social worker/school counselor) called a School Site Coordinator:

  • Works with teachers and others to assess strengths and needs of every student in key areas of development (academics, social/emotional, health, and family);
  • Identifies a unique support plan for each student and connects the student to a tailored set of support services and enrichment opportunities;
  • Develops and maintains partnerships with community agencies;
  • Tracks the support plan electronically for each student; and
  • Follows up to assure service delivery and effectiveness.

Each student receives a unique set of services. They may be prevention and enrichment services, including before- and after-school programs, sports, summer programs, and health and wellness classes; early intervention services such as adult mentoring, academic support, social skills interventions, family assistance, and tutoring; or more intensive services or crisis interventions such as mental health counseling, health services, screening or diagnostic testing, violence intervention, or family counseling.

For example, an elementary school student who has struggled with obesity, has challenges with reading, and loves music may be connected to a healthy cooking club, an after-school program with a focus on literacy tutoring, and a summer music program.

Evaluation shows that City Connects’ comprehensive, customized student support has immediate and long-term benefits to students–for more information on the impact of City Connects, check out our evaluation report, The Impact of City Connects: Progress Report 2014.

 

 

Four City Connects Turnaround Schools Upgraded as Statewide Test Results Announced

Four City Connects schools in Massachusetts have been upgraded from “Turnaround” status with the results of the 2012-13 MCAS statewide tests, announced today by the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We extend our congratulations to the following schools:

  • Boston Public Schools:
    • JFK Elementary
    • Orchard Gardens K-8
  • Springfield Public Schools:
    • Gerena Elementary School
    • Zanetti K-8

City Connects is proud to be a part of the large Turnaround effort that had positive results in these schools!

For more information:

Boston Moves for Health challenges Boston Public Schools to increase student physical activity

Last week, Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino announced several exciting developments that will improve student health and wellness in Boston Public Schools (BPS).

The Mayor announced that donations from Partners HealthCare and Shaw’s and Star Market will provide support for 105 Wellness Champions in 100 schools and help educate students about healthy eating.  To celebrate, Mayor Menino launched two challenges in schools: the Physical Education Challenge and Physical Activity Challenge.

For the Physical Education Challenge, from October 15 through November 9, BPS schools will compete for the most steps taken by students during physical education classes. The Physical Activity Challenge, from January 15 to February 15, students will compete to log the most minutes of physical activity during the school day. All data will be logged into the Boston Moves for Health website so city youth can contribute to meeting Mayor Menino’s citywide 10 million mile challenge. Winning schools will receive funding for curriculum and athletic equipment.

In a press release, the Mayor said:

“Today’s students have a lot on their plates to balance, but their health is our highest priority. We know that kids who maintain a healthy lifestyle do better in the classroom, so it’s only natural that we encourage good habits in schools. This partnership is a fun and engaging way to promote healthy choices, and I want to thank Partners and Shaw’s for their commitment to keeping our kids in shape.”

For more information:

MCAS Results Released

Results from Massachusetts’ statewide standardized tests, the MCAS (short for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System), were released last week. The Boston Globe summarized the results:

Nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts public schools are falling short of performance targets under the state’s new evaluation system, even as struggling urban districts achieve solid gains, state officials reported Wednesday.

In Boston, as well as other city districts, results on the standardized tests were mixed. Scores among 10th-graders rose to new heights. But in the lower grades, results were largely stagnant, and in a number of cases dropped.

Statewide, about 1,000 of nearly 1,600 public schools did not meet the new targets on the standardized tests this year, ­either for “high-needs” students, such as those with disabilities or from low-income families, or for the student body as a whole.

Here at City Connects, we are especially proud of four of our Springfield Public Schools–these ” turnaround” schools made double-digit gains in scores over the last two years: Homer Street, Zanettti, Brookings, and Gerena.

Our evaluation shows that students in City Connects schools outperform their Boston peers in middle school and achieve close to state proficiency levels in both English and Math MCAS. After leaving a City Connects school at the end of grade 5, significant long-term effects continue through eighth grade. Learn more about our impact on MCAS scores here.

For more information:

City Connects Awarded $400,000 Grant to Develop Student Support Sustainability Plan

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has awarded City Connects a $400,000, two-year award to develop strategies that build district capacity to sustain effective student support programs in schools. City Connects will be partnering with Boston and Springfield public schools for this work, which is supported by the DESE Priority Partners for Turnaround Investment Fund.

“We are pleased to receive this award, which will allow us to develop a strategy to sustain evidence-based student support efforts in schools,” said Mary E. Walsh, PhD, executive director of City Connects and the Kearns Professor in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. “It is crucial that schools and districts are able to maintain systemic student support after the federal funding has run its course. We look forward to collaborating with Boston and Springfield districts to devise strategies to enable them to keep the work going.”

Read the full press release here.

Report Shows 2.7 Million US Children Raised by Relatives and Family Friends

A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows an increase in children living with relatives or family friends, so-called “kinship care,” because their parents can no longer care for them. This year, 2.7 million children, about 4% of all US children, were raised in kinship care–an18% jump over the past decade. Circumstances leading to children kinship care include death, child abuse or neglect, military deployment, incarceration, or deportation.

The report, “Stepping up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families” [pdf], estimates that 9% of youths will live with extended family for at least three consecutive months at some point before age 18. In Massachusetts, 31,00 children (2%) are in kinship care, representing 18% of the state-supervised foster care population. Nationally, Mississippi and Kentucky have the highest rates of kinship care, at 7% and 6%, respectively. The report shows that kinship care families are more likely to be poor, less educated, and unemployed than in families where one parent is present (see a table outlining this data here). Kinship care is particularly prevalent in African-American families, where children are twice as likely to be raised in kinship care at some point.

Taking on parental responsibilities can be a substantial burden for relatives and family friends, adding emotional, legal, and financial challenges. The report outlines several recommendations for states and communities to assist families, like removing barriers in the child-welfare system and establishing laws and resources that bolster kinship families.

For more information:

City Connects in the Boston Globe

Today’s Boston Globe featured a story about the fate of Boston’s persistinly low-achieving “turnaround” schools once the 3-year stint of federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) expire at the end of the 2012-13 school year. The article, “Boston schools seek to avert slip when funds end,” discusses efforts to improve academic achievement at 12 turnaround schools funded by SIG, one of which is City Connects. From the article:

Dever Elementary School in Dorchester used its $2.3 million grant to extend its day by an hour and contract with the nonprofit Generations Inc. to bring in senior citizens to tutor students, the nonprofit Playworks to run organized activities during recess, and the nonprofit City Connects to help students and their families obtain health care, housing, and other services. “It is very important that we are able to keep the additional time at a reasonable cost or we are at risk of losing a lot of what we have accomplished,’’ said Michael Sabin, Dever’s principal.

When Boston received School Improvement Grant funding for the 2010-11 scho0l year, City Connects expanded into 7 turnaround elementary schools to provide optimized student support. Read more about that expansion here.

For more information: