Closing the opportunity gap with data, systems, and support

Mary Walsh
City Connects’ executive director Mary Walsh

Boston College’s Lynch School of Education (LSOE), the home base of City Connects’ research and implementation teams, has published a new piece about the impact of our work: “Closing the opportunity gap with data, systems, and support.” From the article:

“Over the course of the past decade, research has shown that two-thirds of the student achievement gap can be attributed to out-of-school factors and how they affect a student’s ability to focus on school. The success of [professor and executive director Mary] Walsh’s program, and evidence from its rigorous evaluation, shows that schools can collaborate with community partners to significantly narrow the gap.”

For more information:

  • Follow the LSOE on Twitter @BCLSOE

City Connects 2012 Progress Report Published

We are pleased to announce the publication of the City Connects Progress Report 2012, detailing results from the 2010-11 academic year. Again this year, our report presents strong evidence of the positive effects of City Connects on students, teachers and school staff, and community partners.

New findings from this year’s report include:

  • Lower Rates of Dropout: Students who attended City Connects elementary schools are significantly less likely to drop out of school in grades 8 through 12 than students never in City Connects. Check page 22 of the report for the full analysis.
  • Decreased Rates of Absenteeism: A new analysis shows that students who attended City Connects elementary schools are significantly less likely to be chronically absent (defined as being absent for 10% or more of the days within the school year) than students never in City Connects. Check page 21 of the report for the full analysis.
  • Positive Effects on Middle School Report Cards: In past years, our reports have documented a significant positive effect on elementary report card scores. A new analysis demonstrates similar results for middle school report card scores, after the students have left City Connects schools. Students enrolled in City Connects elementary schools had significantly higher GPAs overall and in Mathematics in grades 6, 7, and 8–even though they left City Connects after grade 5–than students never in City Connects.  Check page 19 of the report for the full analysis.

A copy of the full report (pdf) is available on our website. As always, 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. This report demonstrates the power of our collaboration.

More Than a Gut Feeling: The Real Value of Family and Community Engagement

City Connects evaluation team member Eric Dearing, PhD, associate professor of applied and developmental psychology at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, has authored an “emerging leaders profile” in the latest Harvard Family Research Project FINE Newsletter, which is dedicated to expanded learning and family engagement. In his article, “More Than a Gut Feeling: The Real Value of Family and Community Engagement,” Eric discusses his vision for the field of family engagement, as well as the nation:

“My vision … is that we abandon the reliance on intuition and instead thoughtfully consider what is and is not working, and why. In turn, we can begin to empower districts—particularly those that are economically disadvantaged—to invest in promising and proven practices that engage families and communities in their children’s education in ways that will ultimately improve life chances.”

Eric cites two examples of successful programs that engage the family and community in education, one of which is City Connects. Peruse the whole issue to learn more about Eric and other scholars’ thoughts on family engagement.

For more information:

  • Follow the Harvard Family Research Project on Twitter @hfrp

Grant Awarded to Study Impact of Student Support on Immigrant Children

Researcher Eric Dearing, PhD, associate professor of applied developmental psychology at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and member of the City Connects evaluation board, has been awarded a 3-year, $150,000 Young Scholar award from the Foundation for Child Development (FCD) for his project, “Student Support in High-Poverty Elementary Schools and the Achievement of English Language Learners.” This award is the first for the newly renamed Center for Optimized Student Support at Boston College, which is dedicated to developing the most effective ways to address the out-of-school factors that influence how students learn and thrive in school.

Dr. Dearing’s work will be focused on immigrant children who are English Language Learners (ELLs) receiving student support through City Connects. Nearly 25% of schoolchildren in the United States are immigrants or the children of immigrants who are disproportionately likely to grow up poor and attend schools that are not properly equipped to promote their learning. Dr. Dearing’s study will inform policy decision makers on the value of systematic student support for improving the lives of immigrant children, in and out of school.

“Immigrant students who are learning English are the fastest growing group of students in US schools and, as a group, they face exceptional barriers to school success,” said Dr. Dearing. “From a research perspective, this award is very exciting because it will allow me to take advantage of natural experiments and quasi-experiments as evaluation tools, providing the first careful examination of whether systematic student support can be used to promote the achievement of immigrant children.”

Dr. Dearing will focus on four specific research questions:

  1. Is the achievement of immigrant children improved through systematic student support?
  2. Does child English proficiency moderate treatment effects such that ELLs demonstrate exceptionally positive treatment effects?
  3. Is the accuracy of special education referrals for immigrant children, particularly ELLs, improved by City Connects?
  4. What is the optimal constellation of student support services for immigrant children?

The FCD’s Young Scholars Program (YSP) focuses on understanding the changing faces of the nation’s children as reflected in the current demography of the United States. YSP seeks to support a new generation of scholars conducting research on the development of children in immigrant families from birth to age ten, particularly those who are living in low-income families.

For more information:

  • Follow FCD on twitter @fcdusorg
  • Read the full press release here (pdf)

Cradles to Crayons Donates Leap Pads to City Connects Schools

C2C Volunteer Day
The City Connects team at Cradles 2 Crayons

City Connects believes that all children can learn and thrive in school if their non-school needs are addressed. A critical partner in meeting these needs is Cradles to Crayons, a powerhouse Boston nonprofit that provides, free of charge, disadvantaged children with the essential items that all kids need to flourish. Cradles to Crayons has supported Boston’s children by providing vital items like backpacks filled with supplies at the start of school and hats and coats during the winter.

On June 17, as part of a year-end day of service, City Connects School Site Coordinators and Program Managers spent the day at Cradles to Crayons’ “Giving Factory,” a warehouse in Brighton, where they inspected, sorted, and packaged clothing donations for children. Emily York, City Connects Program Manager, said:

“Cradles to Crayons has been an important partner for City Connects for several years, thanks in part to the hard work of several of our School Site Coordinators, most notably Amy Cluff, Brendan Adams, and Elizabeth Centeio. With their move to the new Giving Factory space in Brighton, our partnership has been strengthened even more.  Since Cradles to Crayons is such an important partner for us, we were excited about the opportunity to spend some time volunteering. We were divided into teams to create bags of clothing items for children of certain ages and genders; it was so much fun!  The staff there are friendly and energetic and we could not have asked for a better day.”

Following the volunteer day, Kylee North, Cradles to Crayons’ Manager of Distribution Partnerships, contacted us to let us know about availability of a special donation: 400 Leap Pad learning tablets. Our Program Managers were thrilled and thought the donation would be perfectly suited for students at three City Connects elementary schools in Boston that were closing–the Farragut, Emerson, and Agassiz. In addition to those schools, there were enough Leap Pads to share with six more City Connects schools: Edison, Winship, Jackson Mann, Dever McCormack, Holland, and Mason. Said Kylee:

“Cradles to Crayons is dedicated to serving kids in need. Our vision that one day, every child in need will have the essentials to feel safe, warm, ready to learn, and valued, drives us to partner with different agencies across the state that share in that vision. City Connects is no exception. We know that when we provide children’s items to City Connects, those items go directly to the kids who need them the most in the Boston Public Schools. It’s collaborative partnerships like these that help Cradles to Crayons deepen our impact and further our reach to serve more children in need.”

Emily York says that with Kylee’s help, a more streamlined process has been created allowing School Site Coordinators at every City Connects school to place orders more easily. They can provide families with the items they need with more accuracy and quicker than ever before.

Thank you, Cradles to Crayons, for all the great work you do on behalf of Boston’s children!

For more information:

Happy Holidays from City Connects

Season’s greetings from the  City Connects team! 2010 has been quite a year for City Connects; we expanded into Boston turnaround elementary schools, held our first-ever conference on optimized student support, and continued to see encouraging results demonstrating the effectiveness of our work.

We are especially grateful for the support of all our partners in schools and in the community, who stand with us in the belief that all children deserve the opportunity to come to school ready to learn and thrive. Together, we are addressing the out-of-school barriers to learning and helping all children achieve to their fullest potential. Thank you, and we look forward to another wonderful and productive year ahead!

We’ll be back the week of January 3, 2011.

Boston Globe Editorializes about City Connects

On Saturday, the Boston Globe ran an editorial in support of City Connects:

Students can achieve more when they come to school prepared to learn. A nine-year-old program in the Boston Public Schools offers a glimpse into how that system — and others — might clear away some of the many barriers that stand between children and their education.

Read the editorial: Remove Barriers to Learning

City Connects in the Boston College Chronicle

Read about City Connects and our recent conference on Optimized Student Support in the most recent issue of The Boston College Chronicle:

BC Program Draws Notice Among Education Reformers

For more information: