Salem: A city getting ahead of the learning curve

Salem is becoming a city that’s prepared to provide children with the support, help, and enrichment that they need to thrive, Emily Ullman says, instead of addressing crises after they occur.

Ullman is the Director of Extended Learning Programs at Salem Public Schools. She’s also one of the city officials involved in a community collaborative looking at children.

“We knew we were a resource rich community,” Ullman says, pointing to Salem’s many cultural and community organizations and to school staff who were ready to do more for students.

What the city needed was a way to coordinate its in-school and out-of-school efforts and collect data on its actions. It turned to City Connects as part of a broader, citywide effort to address students’ barriers to learning. Continue reading

The Giving Tree

City Connects Coordinator Erika Griffin spotted a holiday problem. She realized that a community partner who had provided gifts for needy children in the past could no longer do so.

To meet this need, Griffin reached out to a friend who helped ensure that a “Giving Tree” was placed in the financial aid department at Salem State College. The tree is made of tags that are each marked with the age and gender of a child in Salem’s public schools. Within a few days, Salem State staff members had chosen a tag and bought gifts for all the children.

Holiday problem solved.

This is just one of the many heart-warming ways that City Connects and our community partners work together to make sure students receive winter gear, books, and toys during the holiday season.


Enjoy the holidays! The blog will be back in January.

Community partnerships bring beds to Springfield

Sometimes our community partners are single organizations, the YMCA or a college that provides tutors.

Other times we work with community teams. That’s the story in western Massachusetts where Stephanie Sanabria, a City Connects Coordinator in Springfield’s public schools, helps children get beds.

Students who are homeless often don’t have a safe, clean, place to sleep. They may have lost everything in a fire or lost an apartment for economic reasons. Once they do have a place to stay, however, giving them a bed can make a substantial, positive difference.

As we blogged last spring, Sanabria works with the local credit unions to raise funding for a Bed for Every Child, a program run by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.

More recently, in October, new beds were delivered to Springfield where they were received by a number of local leaders, including Sanabria as well as Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Azell Cavaan, Chief Communications Officer of Springfield Public Schools, and a number of credit union CEOs and staff members.

City Connects makes these kinds of community partnerships more powerful by identifying children in need and connecting them to the resources that community partners provide. And when Sanabria connects a child to a bed, she also connects them to other needed resources and services such as food, clothing, and other assistance. Continue reading

New Report Shares What We are Learning

Since 2001, City Connects has offered a way for schools to address the out-of-school factors that affect children’s learning inside school. The right set of school-based and community resources can help children cope with these outside challenges so that they can learn and thrive.

Over time, City Connects has built a record of success. In city after city, City Connects helps schools improve students’ attendance, effort, and grades. City Connects narrows achievement gaps and reduces high school dropout rates.

This work has become even more important as more children across the country face more challenges. Nationally, 52 percent of children in our public schools are eligible for Free or Reduced-price Lunch, a measure of low-income status that overlaps with known barriers to learning.

What we are learning through City Connects can help us to serve growing numbers of students. We help address children’s comprehensive needs so they are ready to learn and engage in school. Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 3/13/17

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:

School districts could be affected by changes to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) because schools receive Medicaid funding to pay for services for children in special education.

There’s an experimental app for that: It lets parents know when their children miss classes or don’t turn in assignments. So far, the app has reduced course failures and improved attendance.

Schools can successfully make radical changes to improve education. Just look at Louisiana and Massachusetts.

Researchers say that all elementary school students should have daily recess.

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

The Weekly Connect 2/27/17

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:

Questions persist about an ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act) spending provision that wasn’t finalized during the Obama administration.

Students who believe their schools are unfair may face long-term effects.

Head Start could function as a test site for innovations in early education.

Boston-area suburbs are seeing more poverty. Some towns have twice as many needy students as they did 10 years ago.

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading

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.