“In a profile of the Boston program City Connects on his Public School Insights blog, Claus von Zastrow writes that a rigorous study by Boston College, which runs the program, “tells a pretty stunning story.” City Connects (CCNX) exists in 12 Boston elementary schools, and works to link each child to a “tailored set of intervention, prevention, and enrichment services located in the community.” The beneficial impact of CCNX on student growth in academic achievement (across grades 1 to 5) was on average approximately three times the harmful impact of poverty. By the end of grade 5, achievement differences between CCNX and comparison students indicated that CCNX intervention moves students at the 50th percentile up to or near the 75th percentile, and students at the 25th percentile up to or near the 50th. For multiple outcomes, the treatment effects were largest for students at greatest risk for academic failure. After grade 5, the lasting positive effects of CCNX intervention can be seen in middle-school state standardized test scores, ranging from approximately 50 percent to 130 percent as large as negative effects of poverty. Von Zastrow conducts an interview with two of the program’s leaders, who explain that at root, the program ensures that already existing services actually reach students previously under-served. Implementing the program by putting a support person and the model into schools costs a little less than $500 per student per year.”
City Connects’ Mary Walsh, Executive Director, and Pat DiNatale, Director of Practice, were interviewed about the CCNX model of student support over at the Public School Insights blog. The blog has a rich collection of what’s already working in public schools and aims to spark a national conversation about how to make it work for children in every school. It is a product of the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of 18 leading education associations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools. Check out the interview and leave a comment!
The figure in the interview is new work from the CCNX evaluation team. It 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 on Massachusetts statewide tests (MCAS). After they leave the CCNX program, significant long-term effects persist through middle school. This graph presents the percentage of students achieving in the Proficient or Advanced categories of MCAS mathematics for one cohort of students who started first grade in 2001.
The CWI used 28 indicators of quality of life ranging from economic to emotional well-being; based on data through 2008, the report extrapolates that the “family economic well-being” measure will sink to its lowest point since 1975. This can be attributed to the effects of the global recession, which began in 2008, and illustrates the lag time that typically occurs between the beginning of a recession and its subsequent impact on families. Six of the seven quality of life domains in the study are predicted to reach their lowest points this year.
“Research shows that children who slip into poverty, even for a short time, suffer long-term setbacks even when their families regain their economic footing,” says Ruby Takanishi, president of the Foundation for Child Development. “This is especially true for children during their first decade of life. This means that, even if the recession subsides soon, the effects on these children will not. Unfortunately, we fear the worst is yet to come.”
The report used the percentage of students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) through the National School Lunch Program to determine school poverty status. High-poverty schools had 76 to 100% of students eligible for FRPL and low-poverty schools had up to 25% of students eligible.
How does this compare to Boston? According to the most recent data from the Boston Foundation’s Indicators project, approximately 71% of Boston Public School students–roughly 40,000 students–qualify for FRPL. Nationally, there were 16,122 schools that were considered high-poverty, which shows a 5% increase over the past decade (12% of schools in 1999-2000 versus 17 percent in 2007-08).
The report says that for both elementary and secondary schools, there was little difference between the distribution of school support staff between high- and low-poverty schools. At high-poverty elementary schools, 62% of all staff were professional instructional staff, 5% were student services professional staff, 16% were aides, and 17% were other staff. The numbers at low-poverty elementary schools were very similar.
Despite the staffing levels being nearly identical, the report reiterated the outcomes of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments in reading, mathematics, music, and art, where students from high-poverty schools did not perform as well as students from low-poverty schools.
Fourth graders in Boston Public Schools had NAEP reading scores higher than the national average for public school students in large cities in 2009. Of the 11 urban districts examined, Boston was one of four that showed an increase in average reading scores. You can view more data about Boston’s fourth grade reading scores here.
NAEP also surveyed eighth graders’ reading proficiency. While they too had above average reading scores for public school students in large cities, there was no significant difference between the 2009 and 2007 results. Eighth grade reading scores are available here.
However, urban schools still lag behind the nationwide average. Taking all of the 11 urban districts’ results into consideration, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a statement:
Today’s report shows that the reading achievement of students in our largest cities has increased over time. At the same time, the results also show that cities have significant work to do . . . In cities, towns, and rural areas across the country, we have to work together so that all children are receiving the world-class education they deserve.