What leads to the academic gains that City Connects provides?
New research is shedding light on this question by looking at the impact of three things: how elementary school academic skills, elementary school thriving skills, and the amount of time spent in City Connects affect academic achievement.
One of the research papers that will be presented asks whether an additional year of City Connects boosts students’ academic outcomes. This paper will be presented by Diego Luna Bazaldua, a post-doctoral researcher who is part of an independent evaluation team of faculty and researchers within the Center for Optimized Student Support at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education.
As 2014 draws to a close, we extend our sincere wishes for a happy holiday! Looking back at 2014, we have many things to celebrate and have collected some highlights to share as 2015 approaches.
The impact of City Connects depends in large part on the many exceptional school, community, and philanthropic partners with whom we are honored to work. Together, we ensure that children receive the tailored services and enrichment opportunities they need to be able to learn and thrive in school.
Over the past year, these partnerships have supported our expansion. We’re currently providing optimized student support to 20,000 students in 62 sites across 3 states!
National Network Growth: 2014-15
This fall, City Connects launched in several new sites across New York City, Ohio, and Massachusetts.
The City Connects Evaluation Team, based at Boston College, has had a busy year. The most exciting development was the publication of a paper featuring some of our early findings in the the highly-regarded American Educational Research Journal. Several additional publications were released this year, including:
In 2015, with support from the I. A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation, the Evaluation Team will be examining long-term City Connects student outcomes and taking a deeper dive into teachers’ perceptions of City Connects.
City Connects in the News
City Connects was featured in several news outlets this year, including:
Deserving of Celebration: Public Education Done Right July 3, 2014: “As we celebrate America’s independence … let’s also celebrate examples of comprehensive approaches to education that are doing it right and seeing great results. In Boston, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American revolution, City Connects celebrates its fifteenth year of providing comprehensive supports to students by leveraging community assets and connecting them to each students’ unique needs.”
Impacting Academic Achievement through Student Support
June 24, 2014: “Our longitudinal research demonstrates that for children who attended City Connects schools in grades K–5, the beneficial effects continue into middle and high school. We can definitively say that the City Connects system of student support makes a positive and long-term difference in the lives of children.”
Learning Payoff Found for City Connects Program September 30, 2014: “City Connects helps schools organize and align services for students, including the ‘great middle’-students who are neither excelling enough to be tapped for gifted programs nor struggling enough to be identified for special education.”
Helping students with needs that extend outside the classroom November 24, 2014: “City Connects is based on the simple idea that a child distracted by pain, fear, or deprivation can’t possibly do as well in school as a child without those challenges. So City Connects tries to resolve as many of those issues as possible.”
This article focuses particularly on how City Connects supports students by linking them to the health and wellness services they need to come to school ready to learn and thrive. Drawing on the work of school site coordinator Mark Griffin (pictured at right) at Boston’s Edison K-8 School as an example, the story describes the City Connects approach to addressing the out-of-school factors that impact learning, particularly for students living in poverty.
Last year, we connected 7,800 Boston Public Schools students to more than 11,400 health and wellness services, ranging from counseling to nutrition education, asthma intervention, and bullying prevention. We know that healthier students are better learners, and as the Globe article mentions, research shows that City Connects has a significant positive impact on academic achievement.
In this season of giving thanks, we’d like to extend our gratitude to our community partners who provide these essential services to children and families–we collaborate with more than 380 organizations in Boston alone! Together we’re helping students put their best foot forward.
“The Barr Foundation’s support allows us to continue working in Boston Public Schools, where7,800 children benefit from the student support provided by City Connects,” said Mary E. Walsh, Ph.D., Executive Director of City Connects and Kearns Professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. “With this funding, we are able to continue our longitudinal research on the ways City Connects positively impacts students and schools. We see that children in City Connects high schools, for example, have lower dropout rates—long after they have left a City Connects elementary school. Supporting Boston’s students and being able to examine how student support contributes to these positive outcomes is critical. We are very grateful for the Barr Foundation’s belief in our mission.”
Yesterday, more than 100 members of the Boston community joined City Connects as we convened our annual gathering of Boston community partners to discuss “Supporting Immigrant Students and Families.”
On our panel, Vera Johnson, Director of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Newcomer Counseling and Assessment Center, shared her experience working with families new to Boston and its public schools. After finding that parents and caregivers kept returning to her office when they had questions about schools, Johnson created a position dedicated to supporting families beyond their students’ initial enrollment into school: Parent Liaisons. Speaking a variety of languages, Parent Liaisons educate families, encourage participation in school events, and provide assistance maneuvering the BPS system. Johnson’s office, in response to the needs of new families, also began offering English classes for adults. She reports seeing parents grow into “savvy” members of school communities.
Panelist Suzanne Lee, a community activist and former BPS school administrator, shared her first experience with school after immigrating from Hong Kong. Lee was a top student in grade 6 when she left Hong Kong but upon arriving in Boston, was told she should be in grade 4; her lack of English skills led to the assumption that she “didn’t know anything.” She learned how to rely on herself and ultimately earned a college scholarship and spent her career working in education and community activism. While teaching English to garment workers in Boston, she said she realized why her mother–once a garment worker herself–worked so hard: she was looking for an opportunity to get ahead, and her hopes and dreams were with her children. As a teacher and principal, Lee learned that it takes more than good teaching and learning for children to succeed. “All children can succeed if we meet their needs,” she said. “The first rule is to listen.”
We also heard from City Connects’ own Raghida Jeranian, a Program Manager who supervises School Site Coordinators in Boston. She relayed the story of a Coordinator who welcomed a Somali student and her family midway through the school year. To help with the student’s transition, the Coordinator set up a lunch group where the student could make friends with others new to the school and secured a space in an after-school program with a focus on homework help (the student’s parents didn’t speak English and were not able to help with homework). The Coordinator learned from the student that the family could not afford furniture in their apartment. Sensitive to the family’s privacy and pride, the Coordinator reached out to let them know of the services she could connect them to outside of school, like free adult English classes and donations. Thanks to their burgeoning relationship, the mother felt comfortable requesting help furnishing their apartment and the Coordinator was able to secure donations. This family shared with others how the Coordinator was able to assist them and they, in turn, felt more comfortable contacting the Coordinator and becoming more engaged with the school community.
Thanks to all of our partners who joined us yesterday, and thank you for your ongoing collaboration! Together, we are ensuring that students to come to school ready to learn and thrive.
We are convening our annual meeting of Boston-area community partners on Wednesday, December 4, to discuss “Partnering with Immigrant Students and Families.” We will tap the expertise of Vera Johnson, Director of the Boston Public Schools Newcomer Assessment and Counseling Center, and Suzanne Lee, community activist and former school administrator. We’ll seek to answer:
How can we best recognize and promote the strengths immigrant students and their families bring to school communities?
What needs can community partners help address?
What are the school- and community-based resources that can support these strengths and needs?
As always, the event will provide an opportunity to hear updates from City Connects and to network and share resources with other organizations from across the city. Continental breakfast will be served. The event is free but space is limited. Register here.
We are pleased to debut a new “mini-documentary” about City Connects. You’ll hear first-hand from school administrators, community partners, and our staff about how City Connects’ system of addressing students’ unique strengths and needs positively impacts schools and student achievement.
Four City Connects schools in Massachusetts have been upgraded from “Turnaround” status with the results of the 2012-13 MCAS statewide tests, announced today by the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We extend our congratulations to the following schools:
Boston Public Schools:
Orchard Gardens K-8
Springfield Public Schools:
Gerena Elementary School
City Connects is proud to be a part of the large Turnaround effort that had positive results in these schools!