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!

New Report Details Positive Outcomes for City Connects Students, Schools

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:

City Connects featured on new philanthropy website

City Connects is featured in a story on a new philanthropy website, Inside Philanthropy. The story, “Six Foundations Give Big to Reduce High School Dropout Rates,” covers recent funding awards supporting City Connects’ work.

For more information:

New Publication: The Lasting Impact of Optimized Student Support

Cover of Winter 2014 ImpactAs we ring in the new year, we are excited to share a new publication. City Connects: The Lasting Impact of Student Support is an updated overview of our system of student support and the positive results it has on students and schools.

It debuts some exciting new findings about City Connects’ direct positive impact on school dropout. In grades 9 through 12, students who attended City Connects elementary schools beginning in kindergarten are significantly less likely to drop out of high school than students never in City Connects. The difference translates to about 50% lower odds of dropping out of high school!

We also feature our positive impact Massachusetts statewide Math test (MCAS) scores, on which City Connects students surpass their peers never in City Connects and approach the state average.

You can find more information on our results and additional City Connects publications on our website.

Report Details Decrease in “Dropout Factory” High Schools

The America’s Promise Alliance is a cross-sector partnership of corporations, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and advocacy groups founded by General Colin Powell working to improve lives and change outcomes for children. They released a report this week, “Building a Grad Nation,”  that detailed a significant decline in the number of high schools where fewer than 60% of students graduate, known as “dropout factories.” According to the report, from 2002 to 2008, the number of “dropout factories” fell by 13%. Even though these schools represent a small fraction of all public high schools in America, they account for about half of all high school dropouts each year.

Massachusetts showed modest gains with the percentage of high school graduates rising from 77.6% in 2002 to 81.5% in 2008. When looking at all 50 states, the Commonwealth tied with Hawaii to rank 13th overall in terms of  the largest gains.

“Public schools are showing improvement thanks to reforms and other efforts that have been put in place, but we need to dramatically increase the pace of progress,” said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education. “No principal, school board, teachers’ union or mayor can resolve a community’s dropout crisis alone. It takes everyone working together to make progress every year and build on success.”

For more information:

New Study Shows Achievement Gap Persists

A study released yesterday from the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization representing 66 of the nation’s large urban public school districts,  reports that the achievement gap in education may be wider than has been acknowledged. “A Call for Change: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Black Males in Urban Schools” (pdf) looked at the differences between black and white students’ academic and social achievement and concludes that young black males in America are in a state of crisis, performing lower than their peers on almost every indicator. The study examined African-American males’  readiness to learn, National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, college and career preparedness, school experience, and post-secondary experience. Findings include:

·Black children were twice as likely to live in a household where no parent had full-time or year-round employment in 2008. And in 2007, one out of every three black children lived in poverty compared with one out of every 10 white children.

· On the 2009 fourth grade NAEP reading assessment, only 12% of black male students nationally and 11% of those living in large central cities performed at or above proficient levels, compared with 38% of white males nationwide. The average African-American fourth and eighth grade male who is not poor does no better in reading and math on NAEP than white males who are poor.

· Black males were nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school as white males. Black male students nationally scored an average 104 points lower than white males on the SAT college entrance examination in reading.

· Black students were less likely to participate in academic clubs, more likely to be suspended from school, and more likely to be retained in grade than their white peers.

· The unemployment rate among black males ages 20 and over (17.3%) was twice as high as the unemployment rate among white males of the same age (8.6%) earlier this year. In 2008, black males ages 18 and over accounted for 5% of the college population, while black males accounted for 36%of the nation’s prison population.

The Council would like the White House to convene a conference where a comprehensive plan of action could be established.

For more information:

The Economic Benefits of Reducing Dropout Rates

The Alliance for Excellent Education released a study estimating the benefits of reducing the dropout rate among students of color in the country’s 50 largest cities. According to the study, the most recent estimate shows that high school graduation rates for African American, Latino, and American Indian students is slightly higher than 50%. This is more than 20 percentage points lower than that of their white peers.

If the dropout rate in Boston–estimated at 10,400 students in the class of 2008– were cut in half, the study estimates that this single class of new graduates would likely earn the following amounts of combined income in an average year:

  • African American: $6.9 million
  • Latino: $9.5 million
  • American Indian: $200,000
  • Asian American: $5.7 million

As a result of their increased wages and higher levels of spending, state and local taxes in Boston would likely grow by as much as $2.3 million in an average year. The country would benefit as a whole as well; the study says that if half of the nation’s 600,000 dropouts graduated, the benefits would likely include:

  • increased earnings of $2.3 billion in an average year;
  • increased home sales of an additional $5.9 billion in mortgage capacity over what they would spend without a diploma;
  • an additional 17,450 jobs from the increased spending in their local areas;
  • an increase in the gross regional product by as much as $3.1 billion;
  • an additional $1.6 billion spent and an additional $636.6 million invested each year;
  • an additional $158.6 million spent on vehicle purchases; and
  • increased tax revenues of $249.7 million.

Follow the Alliance for Excellent Education on Twitter: @All4Ed

Summer Break Begins for Boston

KidsBoston Public Schools have wrapped up the 2009-10 academic year and students are on their way to enjoying the summer. In an end-of-year message, BPS Superintendent Carol R. Johnson commended students and teachers and pointed out some gains made during the past school year:

  • Boston Public Schools’ graduation rate rose to its highest level ever
  • The drop-out rate fell to its lowest level in more than two decades
  • BPS’ new Re-engagement Center assisted more than 500 teenagers who had left the classroom in their return to school

With that said, City Connects wishes all BPS students and staff a wonderful and safe summer!