For 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
We’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
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.
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
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.
- In partnership with the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), we began working with 5 CAS community schools in New York City serving more than 1,600 students.
- In Boston, we added four Boston Public elementary schools: the Chittick, Holmes, Shaw, and Winthrop. City Connects now works in 50 Massachusetts sites serving 16,000 students, including 20 Boston Public schools, 16 Boston-area Catholic schools, and 13 Springfield Public schools.
- In Dayton, Ohio, with support from the Mathile Family Foundation, we welcomed two charter schools to our network: DECA Prep and the Dayton Early College Academy. In 2015, the Trotwood-Madison City School District on the edge of Dayton will be joining the City Connects network.
- With support from the Better Way Foundation, the Early Childhood adaptation of City Connects is being implemented in all City Connects sites that serve our youngest students.
- Looking ahead to 2015, City Connects will be growing in Brockton, Mass., with support from the Amelia Peabody Foundation.
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:
- 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.”
We wish you the very best in 2015!
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.”
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 work of City Connects was featured today on the front page of Education Week: “Learning Payoff Found for City Connects Program.”
The catalyst for the story was a paper authored by our Evaluation Team that was recently published in the American Educational Research Journal (AERJ). The paper demonstrates City Connects‘ positive impact on elementary and middle school students’ academic achievement.
While schools have always made efforts to address students’ out-of-school needs, the City Connects AERJ paper shows that using evidence to inform practice, making effective use of community resources, and tailoring a plan for every student can alter trajectories for children. It’s a call to action to change the way we address the achievement gap and the ‘poverty gap’ in our most challenged schools and to rethink how school counselors, social workers, and other student support staff meet the needs of students.
Fifteen years ago, a small team of school, university, and community partners began working on creating the system of student support that is now City Connects. We were hopeful that we would be able to demonstrate that addressing students’ out-of-school needs would lead to improvements in academic achievement and student well-being.
Our hopes have been more than realized. City Connects not only supports student thriving in school, but contributes to significant academic gains as well. Our longitudinal research shows that for children who attended City Connects in elementary schools, the beneficial effects continue into 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.
We are pleased to announce the publication of The Impact of City Connects: Progress Report 2014, detailing results from the 2011-12 academic year in City Connects’ Boston and–for the first time–Springfield, MA, public schools. Highlights include:
- Lower rates of dropout
Students who attended City Connects elementary schools beginning in kindergarten have 50% lower odds of dropping out of high school than students never in a City Connects school. See page 25 of the report for the full analysis.
- Improved standardized test scores
After leaving City Connects elementary schools at the end of grade 5, students go on to outperform their peers in middle school and achieve close to state averages on both English and Math statewide standardized test scores (MCAS). Benefits are especially pronounced for students most at risk, like English Language Learners. See page 22 of the report for the full analysis.
- Supporting school transformation
After one year of implementing City Connects in Springfield’s persistently underperforming (“turnaround”) elementary schools, the gap between these schools and other Springfield schools was significantly reduced in grades 3, 4, and 5 for both English and Math MCAS. See page 35 of the report for the full analysis.
“The data in this report make clear that thoughtful strategies and rigorous practices that provide non-academic supports for students can make a significant difference toward closing the achievement gap for children living in poverty,” said Mary E. Walsh, Ph.D., Executive Director of City Connects and the Kearns Professor at the Boston College Lynch School of Education. “Schools have always made efforts to address students’ out-of-school needs. This report shows that using evidence to inform practice, making effective use of community resources, and tailoring a plan for every student can alter trajectories for children. It has implications for changing the way school counselors, social workers, and other student support staff meet the needs of students.”
For more information: