Out-of-School Factors In the News

Central to our philosophy at City Connects is that the out-of-school factors affecting students have a great impact on their ability to learn and thrive in school. (You can read about how we address out-of-school factors for children here.)

Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute has written beautifully on the subject, most recently in an issue brief, “How to Fix our Schools.” In the brief, Rothstein reiterates research that demonstrates only one-third of the achievement gap in schools is due to quality of instruction.

“Decades of social science research have demonstrated that differences in the quality of schools can explain about one-third of the variation in student achievement. But the other two-thirds is attributable to non-school factors,” he wrote.

Two great articles published recently advocated for addressing out-of-school factors. Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville and Jeffrey R. Henig, professor of political science and education at Columbia University, jointly authored a commentary, “Why Attention Will Return to Non-School Factors,” in Education Week. Reville and Henig wrote:

“Our vision of the future of education reform is simple: American schools won’t achieve their goal of ‘all students at proficiency’ unless they attend to nonschool factors.”

They propose a multi-tiered solution comprising data that links student outcomes to services, quantifiable indicators of success that are measured long-term, and benchmarks that can provide feedback on student progress. Reville wrote an accompanying blog post, “Closing the Poverty Gap: The Way Forward for Education Reform,” about the relationship between poverty and student achievement in Massachusetts.

In the New York Times, Lisa Belkin considers attempts to increase parental engagement in schools in her article, “Whose Failing Grade Is It?“. Belkin introduces several pieces of state legislation aimed at mandating parents’ involvement in their children’s schools as a means to improve student performance. Belkin quotes Diane Ravitch, an education historian, who argues that parent education should be targeted to parents when their children are born up to age five. Ravitch goes on to say:

“…We need to acknowledge that the root problem is poverty.”

These two pieces call attention to the impact out-of-school factors can have on children–something we believe in strongly at City Connects. Our systematic approach to supporting students strengths and needs has proven effective; you can read about our results here.

City Connects 2010 Annual Report Published

City Connects Annual Report 2010

We are happy to announce the publication of our 2010 Annual Report, The Impact of City Connects. Again this year, our report presents strong evidence of the positive effects of City Connects for students and their families, for teachers and staff who work in our schools, and for our community partners.

Among the findings this year:

  • Improved Academic Outcomes: Our evaluation confirms again the significant benefits of City Connects for academic outcomes as measured both by report card scores and by  MCAS scores extending into middle school, after students have left City Connects. A cutting-edge approach to statistical analysis is detailed in the report.
  • Decreased Retention: City Connects students experience lower rates of retention in grade than those in comparison schools.
  • Satisfied Principals: 100% of principals surveyed reported satisfaction with City Connects as a whole, and 100% would recommend City Connects to a principal in another school.
  • Satisfied Teachers: 97% of teachers would recommend City Connects to a teacher in another school. In open-ended survey responses, teachers told us that the increased knowledge of students’ non-academic lives that they gain through City Connects allows them to tailor instruction and employ new strategies to engage students in learning.
  • Satisfied Partners: Community agencies continue to report high levels of satisfaction with partnership quality and effectiveness with City Connects schools; for example, 95% are satisfied with their primary contact at City Connects schools (vs. 67% at non-City Connects schools).

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. The report is evidence of the success of our collaboration.

New Report Shows High-poverty Schools Have Fewer In-field Teachers

The Education TrustThe Education Trust, a nonprofit group working to close the achievement gap, published a study yesterday that reports that 9 years after a federal law was passed to ensure that low-income students were being assigned to strong teachers, students in high-poverty schools are still disproportionately taught by out-of-field and inexperienced teachers. According to the report, Not Prepared for Class, “Staffing schools in a way that ensures that all kids have access to strong teachers requires states and school districts to mount strategies that address multiple problems at once.”

The study’s recommendation’s include:

  • Collect data on teacher quality and equality, and get it out in public.
  • Adopt a policy prohibiting disproportionate assignment of high-quality or low-quality teachers.
  • Use the state’s authority to intervene in low-performing schools.
  • Provide big incentives for strong teachers to stay in or move to high-poverty and high-minority schools.
  • Measure and hold accountable teacher preparation programs for producing high-quality teachers for high poverty and high-minority schools.
  • Develop rigorous evaluation systems to measure teacher effectiveness.