A Video Tells Our Story

We’re excited about our new video. It’s an overview of how City Connects gets the right services to the right child at the right time.

In the video, Julia MacEwan, a City Connects site coordinator, says:

“In order for kids to be successful in school, they need lots of different things. A kid might need a backpack, a winter coat. She might need counseling, a family service center. And those are all the kinds of things that your City Connects coordinator can connect you to.”

Eric Dearing — a professor of Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology in Boston College’s Lynch School of Education — explains:

“One advantage of City Connects is that it takes a multi-pronged approach to solving a multi-pronged problem. The disadvantage – and also the advantages – that we see among families in poverty are not the same from family to family and child to child.”

And Mary Walsh, City Connects’ executive director, adds:

“We did it by relying on developmental science, and we worked very closely with practitioners in the community. We were able, in a sense, to create a system that built the proverbial village around a child.”

Please take a look.

Understanding Why City Connects Works

City Connects

We’ve known that students who participate in City Connects during elementary school do well on middle school assessments of academic achievement. However, we know less about why that’s true.

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.

These research findings will be presented tomorrow at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness.

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.

Luna Bazaldua says this research is “as close as you can get to a real experiment.” That’s important since researchers haven’t run randomized trials on City Connects because we deliver the intervention to every child in a school. Continue reading

City Connects: A Promising Return on Investment

 

Shaw Elementary SchoolFor years, economists have used the term “return on investment,” or ROI, to describe business profits. Invest, for example, $100, then earn $200, and that’s a return of $2 for every dollar invested.

Now, increasingly, economists are applying ROI to public investments. Take Henry Levin, a professor of Economics and Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Levin has done a benefit-cost analysis of City Connects, and found strikingly positive results.
Levin’s approach is called “the ingredients method,” and it “calculates how much money any intervention saves society by generating more taxable income, reducing the burden on the health care and public assistance and criminal justice systems, and creating more engaged citizens.”

What’s City Connects’ return on investment?  Continue reading

The Abell Report Looks at City Connects’ Approach to Student Success

abellWe’re excited to announce that City Connects is featured in the October edition of the Abell Report. The report is published by the Baltimore-based Abell Foundation, the largest foundation that focuses solely on Baltimore.

The Abell Report sums up assumptions that are common in many schools: Support services for students are important, but “they are often dismissed as isolated from the core school functions of teaching and learning.”

It is, however, essential to relocate these services to a school’s core. As the report says, “New research shows that effective student support not only improves the climate of a school, but it can also actually accelerate learning and improve students’ academic outcomes.” Continue reading

New Conversations – A Policy Brief

Students at the Saint Columbkille Partnership School in Brighton, MA.

 

We think it’s a new moment — and it’s full of new conversations.

Science is increasingly talking about how and why connecting kids to the right services helps them succeed.

We explore this conversation in more depth in our new policy brief, “Principles of Effective Practice for Integrated Student Support.”

We’ve known for decades that what happens to children outside school can help or hurt how well they do inside school. What’s new is that we’re talking about the complexities science has found. We know, for example, that:

• Every child is unique and that children’s development happens across a range of domains — academic, social-emotional, and health — and in a range of settings that include home, school, and communities.

• Strengths and risks act together. As we say in the policy brief, “There is a delicate dialogue between risks and strengths, where a child’s protective resources such as positive relationships, talents or interests may or may not help to mitigate the impacts of risk factors like deprivation, abuse, or anxiety,” and

• Development occurs over time and it can be disrupted by chronic adversity and trauma, also known as toxic stress. Development can also be helped by effective interventions that help a child get back on track.

Continue reading

A New Moment

City Connects

 

We think this is a new moment.

Here at City Connects, we have the insights, the tools, the programs, and, now, the opportunity to transform education.

Our approach is simple and effective: help each child succeed in school by addressing the problems each child faces outside of school.

We’ve been doing this work for decades. We’ve seen kids come to school in slippers instead of boots. We’ve seen them fill their backpacks with food from school that becomes dinner. And we know that many children have other health and economic problems that make it tough for them to learn. That’s why City Connects created a system to provide children with customized help. We link them to the right services and enrichment opportunities in their schools and communities.

Early on, skeptics said it could take 10 years to see the effects of this work. But once we started collecting data, we were as surprised as anyone to see positive impacts after just one year. And today, research continues to show that City Connects has a robust impact on kids over the long term.

The obstacles that kids face outside of schools are substantial. Poverty, poor health, and other social problems have a strong grip. As Robert Putnam writes about his hometown in his book, “Our Kids:”   Continue reading

Happy Holidays! Reflecting on 2014 & what’s ahead in 2015

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.

Research & Publications

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:

  • huff post eduDeserving 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 Supportascd whole child
    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.”
  • Education Week LogoLearning 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.”

We wish you the very best in 2015!

Check out City Connects in the Boston Globe

City Connects was featured today on the front page of the Boston Globe’s G section: “Helping students with needs that extend outside the classroom.”

Globe-G-cover-11-24-14This 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.