City Connects 2010 Annual Report Published

City Connects Annual Report 2010

We are happy to announce the publication of our 2010 Annual Report, The Impact of City Connects. Again this year, our report presents strong evidence of the positive effects of City Connects for students and their families, for teachers and staff who work in our schools, and for our community partners.

Among the findings this year:

  • Improved Academic Outcomes: Our evaluation confirms again the significant benefits of City Connects for academic outcomes as measured both by report card scores and by  MCAS scores extending into middle school, after students have left City Connects. A cutting-edge approach to statistical analysis is detailed in the report.
  • Decreased Retention: City Connects students experience lower rates of retention in grade than those in comparison schools.
  • Satisfied Principals: 100% of principals surveyed reported satisfaction with City Connects as a whole, and 100% would recommend City Connects to a principal in another school.
  • Satisfied Teachers: 97% of teachers would recommend City Connects to a teacher in another school. In open-ended survey responses, teachers told us that the increased knowledge of students’ non-academic lives that they gain through City Connects allows them to tailor instruction and employ new strategies to engage students in learning.
  • Satisfied Partners: Community agencies continue to report high levels of satisfaction with partnership quality and effectiveness with City Connects schools; for example, 95% are satisfied with their primary contact at City Connects schools (vs. 67% at non-City Connects schools).

We are grateful to all of our school district and community partners for their commitment to addressing the out-of-school factors that impact students’ lives. The report is evidence of the success of our collaboration.

ReadBoston & Farragut Elementary Celebrate African-American Heroes

Our last blog post described Sacha Pfeiffer’s interview on WBUR with Rick Weissbourd, the founder of ReadBoston. This literacy initiative has offered exciting opportunities to students at one City Connects school, Farragut Elementary, located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston.

Today, students at the Farragut will take part in a “Celebration of African-American Heroes.” Guest speakers from Boston hospitals will read stories to students, who are encouraged to come to school dressed as a famous African-American leader. As part of the event, students will choose a book to keep and to read at home over the school vacation.

In another event earlier this year, author Irene Smalls came to the school to read to students. Students also got to hear Boston Celtics players read at a third event through the NBA Read to Achieve program, partly sponsored by ReadBoston. The Farragut school applied to ReadBoston for a grant to help fund these activities.

“This has been a great opportunity for kids to take part in fun events that generate excitement about reading,” said Georgia Butler, the City Connects School Site Coordinator at the Farragut. “We’re glad to have this excellent partnership.”

For more information:

City Connects’ Partner ReadBoston Featured

Photo by Dawkeye/Flickr

In a recent story on elementary school students’ reading achievement, “Making Sure Mass. 3rd Graders are Strong Readers,” WBUR interviewed the founder of one of City Connects’ community partners, ReadBoston.

Rick Weissbourd, who also founded WriteBoston, commented on the reading achievement gap related to poverty: while 37% of third-graders statewide read below grade level, among children from low-income families, 57% do. Weissbourd noted that an early difference in experience with spoken language may be related to the gap; children growing up in low-income families may come to school not knowing as many words as their peers growing up in more affluent families.

Reporter Sacha Pfeiffer dug deep into the issue, asking what factors in the lives of low-income families may be affecting the difference in spoken language experience. Weissbourd’s answer reinforces a core belief of the City Connects mission: poverty creates stress. An example is the pressure of working more than one job, which limits time for conversation with children. Weissbourd also cited the low-level depression that can accompany life under the pressure of poverty.

Like ReadBoston, the City Connects intervention aims to provide supports to students and families that can help address the out-of-school factors impacting achievement. Watch our blog in the days ahead for a description of City Connects’ successful partnership with ReadBoston at one of our schools.

For more information:

The Recession’s Effect on Children

A new report published by the bipartisan advocacy organization First Focus illustrates how recessions affect child well-being and concludes that even temporary poverty has lifelong health implications for children. Conducted by researchers at PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the report, “The Effect of Recession on Child Well-Being,” says it takes years for families, especially low-income families, to bounce back to pre-recession income levels.

The study synthesized evidence in four areas–health, food security, housing stability, and child maltreatment–and reviewed the correlation of each to child well-being during recessions, past and present. The study found that as a result of increased poverty, approximately 43% of families with children report that they are struggling to afford stable housing. The study also found an increase in the number of “food insecure” households.

“While there has been much discussion about housing issues for families during this recession, I’m not sure many people know how profound the food insecurity issues have been, where as many as 74% of children in some of our communities are now relying on food stamps to put dinner on the table,” said David Rubin, MD, MSCE, director of PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The evidence is also strong that those families who entered the recession in poverty will take much longer to rebound, demonstrating that we have a long road ahead even as the economy improves.”

For more information:

Three Massachusetts Groups Awarded “Promise Neighborhood” Planning Grants

The U.S. Department of Education yesterday awarded 21 “Promise Neighborhood” planning grants to nonprofit organizations and universities across the country, three of which are based in Massachusetts. The one-year grants of up to $500,000 are designed to help these groups create plans to provide comprehensive “cradle to career” services for children.

“Communities across the country recognize that education is the one true path out of poverty,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These Promise Neighborhoods applicants are committed to putting schools at the center of their work to provide comprehensive services for young children and students.”

The Massachusetts winners are Community Day Care Center of Lawrence, Inc. in Lawrence, the United Way of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston.

As reported in the Boston Globe, “the $500,000 grant to the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a community-based organization, represents a major milestone in replicating the Harlem Children’s Zone locally. For years, different groups of city leaders, philanthropists, and community activists have toured the Harlem program, returning each time to Boston energized, but unable to sustain the momentum.”

One of City Connects’ schools, Orchard Gardens, is located in Dudley Street’s target neighborhood of Roxbury, which is also part of Boston Mayor Tom Menino’sCircle of Promise,” a 5-square-mile area in where the Mayor and Boston Public Schools have been trying to set up a coalition to provide wraparound services for children. Dudley Street will partner with the City of Boston, nonprofit groups, philanthropists, after-school providers, religious leaders, and universities to advance this agenda.

Next year, the President has requested $210 million in his budget, including $200 million to support implementation of Promise Neighborhood projects and $10 million for planning grants for new communities.

For more information:

5 Ways to Improve Literacy Among Massachusetts Students

A new report out of the Boston-based Strategies for Children called Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for School Success says that efforts to increase literacy and produce strong readers need to be stepped up for children birth through age 9. According to data on their website,  31% of third graders in Boston are proficient on the MCAS reading test–that’s a full 26% lower than the state average of 57%. Taking a deeper look, the study also shows that two-thirds of low-income students and one-third of students who are not poor do not read at grade level.

With third-grade reading level a critical predictor of later success, the report, written by Nonie Lesaux, PhD, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, recommends five avenues for improvement:

  1. Reallocate funds and alter policy to ensure programs are delivered effectively and with sufficient intensity.
  2. Conduct early and ongoing assessment of children’s language and reading and of the quality of services and supports.
  3. Increase adults’ capacity to assess and support children’s language and reading development.
  4. Bring language-rich, rigorous, and engaging reading curricula into early education and care settings, as well as pre-kindergarten to third grade classrooms.
  5. Expand and strengthen work with families across learning settings and within communities.

To promote reading among Boston’s students, Read Boston, one of City Connects’ community partners, provides students with free books and creates classroom libraries in elementary schools that allow students to take books home to read with their families. What effective reading programs are in place in your community?

800 Boston Students Pledge to Make Positive Choices

Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task ForceFor the seventh year running, the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force is gathering 800 fourth through sixth graders from Boston public schools at a Youth Summit at Boston College. The summit culminates the substance abuse unit in the City Connects-New Balance Foundation health and wellness program, which is conducted by CCNX health coordinators.

The Youth Summit, developed in partnership with the Task Force, CCNX, and the Boston Police Department, aims to arm students with the necessary information and skills that will empower them to make positive choices about drugs and alcohol. The students will hear first-hand about the perils of substance abuse from other youth in recovery and engage in interactive activities to learn more about the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.

According to the Health of Massachusetts report from the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, alcohol abuse in children and teens is a strong predictor for addiction problems in adulthood. The prevalence rates of alcohol use, binge drinking, and illicit drug use are all higher in Massachusetts than the national average. Learning positive choices early is essential; the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that children who began drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol at some point in their lives.

Education Secretary Visits Boston’s Quincy School

Secretary Duncan
Secretary Duncan

On a day-long visit to Boston today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be holding a round-table discussion about school-community partnerships at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. The Quincy school is one of City Connects’ largest elementary schools with nearly 800 students and two site coordinators.

Josiah Quincy Elementary School, Boston
Josiah Quincy Elementary School, Boston

Mary E. Walsh, executive director of CCNX and the Kearns Professor of Urban Education and Innovative Leadership at Boston College, and Pat DiNatale, CCNX director of implementation, will be representing City Connects in the discussion, which will also be attended by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Superintendent Carol R. Johnson.  Following the discussion, second- and third-grade Quincy students are scheduled to perform a traditional dance in honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Secretary Duncan is also planning to pay tribute to Boston Educators of the Year as part of a discussion with them about effective strategies for academic success.

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