When City Connects Coordinators in Minnesota saw that students engaged in virtual learning were missing from school, the coordinators dug in to find out why.
“There were several reasons,” Laurie Acker, the City Connects Program Manager in Minnesota, says. “Some students didn’t have access to the Internet, or they had spotty access because a number of people in their homes were trying to use computers.” Other students lived in homes that were crowded or distracting.
“The other thing we saw was that for a number of families there wasn’t any parental assistance at home, so some students were trying to do school by themselves without help. Younger students didn’t always know how to use the computer. And middle school students weren’t always motivated to use it.”
Fortunately, Valerie Quintana saw a solution: use office buildings that have been emptied out by the pandemic to create study spaces for school children.
Quintana is the co-founder and Executive Director ofThe Real Minneapolis, a nonprofit organization that “responds to the immediate and fluid needs of historically under-represented individuals by thoughtfully listening.”Continue reading →
Courtney Pollack, a former middle school teacher, stands in two worlds.
As a Research Affiliate in the Gabrieli Lab at MIT, she does laboratory-based research.
At Boston College, she does applied research.
“Laboratory research contributes important knowledge about learning. But there’s a long runway from the lab to the classroom, so it takes time and several intermediate steps for this knowledge to have an impact on how students learn every day,” Pollack explains.
“Another approach is to conduct applied education research, which is what the Center for Optimized Student Support does.” Pollack is a Senior Researcher at the center, which is home to City Connects and based at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development.
“Researchers in the center study the City Connects intervention, which is grounded in prior child development research from different disciplines and from both laboratory and applied settings.”
Long before Pollack was an academic, however, she was a college student who had started thinking about how education works because she was tutoring middle school students in Arizona who were struggling in math.Continue reading →
Jama Badinghaus, a City Connects Coordinator at Chaminade Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio, has been helping students apply to college for several years. Now she’s doing it in the middle of a pandemic — and she’s encouraging students to reach beyond the colleges they know to choices they hadn’t considered.
“My role is on the support side,” Badinghaus says, “helping students think about what they want to do and asking if families have the resources they need.”
“We’ve put more energy into making sure that students have access to financial aid information. We’re making sure that students have a better sense of how to complete college applications, and we educate them about specific programs for first generation students [who are the first in their families to attend college] or for low-income kids.”
As schools move through and beyond the pandemic, one of the best strategies they can use is holistic learning.
Holistic learning is “a powerful approach to teaching and learning because it acknowledges that academics must be paired with non-academic support to help students thrive in and out of school,” the Rennie Center says in its new Condition of Education report, which cites City Connects as an example of holistic learning in action.
Understanding and responding to students “holistically reflects the reality that each learner comes into the classroom with a unique set of strengths, challenges, aspirations, and life experiences,” the report, which was released yesterday at a virtual event, explains. “Overlooking these distinctions means that too many students—particularly students of color—do not receive the support they need to thrive in school or beyond.” Holistic learning, in other words, “seeks to break down barriers.” Continue reading →