Back-to-School by the Numbers

Over on the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog, Valerie Strauss has compiled a bunch of interesting data pertaining to back-to-school. A few highlights:

  • 55.5 million: Number of students predicted to be enrolled in pre-k through grade 12 this fall
  • 43%: Percentage of students (elementary through high school) who belonged to a minority population in 2009
  • 23%: Percentage students (elementary though high school) who had at least one foreign-born parent in 2009
  • 11.2 million: Number of children (age 5-17) who spoke a language other than English at home in 2009
  • 31.3 million: Average number of children participating each month in the National School Lunch Program in 2009

Here’s a look at City Connects by the numbers at the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year:

  • 21: Total number of City Connects schools. We’ll be expanding beyond Boston for the first time, where we’ll be in 15 schools, to serve 6 turnaround elementary schools in Springfield, Mass.
  • 7,500: Using numbers from the 2010-11 school year, we project that we’ll be reaching about 7,500 students total in Boston and Springfield, which is roughly 20% of each district’s total elementary enrollment.
  • 5: Number of days our School Site Coordinators are spending at our annual summer professional development institute, which is underway now!

The first day back to school in (most) Boston elementary schools is Thursday, Sept. 8; Springfield public elementary schools open Monday, Aug. 29. We’re excited for this school year to get underway!

City Connects Poster at APA Meeting

City Connects team member Michael Capawana, a Counseling Psychology graduate student in the Lynch School of Education, is presenting a poster at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Psychological Association this week. His poster, “School and Community Agency Collaboration on Student Health Needs,” was recognized as one of the top student-authored posters being presented in its division.

The poster focuses on how City Connects addresses student health needs, in addition to academic, social/emotional, and family needs. Policymakers and educators agree that elementary and secondary schools can play a significant role in the promotion of healthy development in children. The evidence is clear that improving children’s health facilitates positive academic outcomes, while poor nutrition, inactivity, and chronic medical conditions have been linked to less successful academic performance. In children, physical illness is often concurrent with psychological and social problems such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, which can lead to absenteeism and decreased academic achievement.

The task of addressing students’ health factors cannot and should not be accomplished by schools alone. Instead, efforts should include collaboration across schools, community agencies, youth development organizations, and institutions such as universities and hospitals. The communities in which schools are embedded, particularly urban environments, possess services and enrichment opportunities that have the potential to address student risk, increase resiliency, and ultimately improve academic outcomes. The collaborative role of community agencies in delivering health-based services to students is essential.

Michael’s study describes the health needs impacting a population of urban students; participants were 3,709 students in grades K-5, enrolled in 11 Boston elementary schools in City Connects. Within this population:

  • 57% of all students had at least one general need, with most students having more than one
  • 16% of all students were recognized as having 725 health needs
  • Each student had an average of 1.3 health concerns, with some children having multiple
  • The most prevalent needs identified included visual impairment, weight/nutritional issues (primarily obesity), asthma, allergies, hearing impairment, speech difficulties, hygiene, and sleep problems

City Connects is succeeding at addressing various health needs for many students to improve overall thriving. However, with the burgeoning prevalence of medical problems facing children, the responsibility of caring for kids extends to the community. Efforts should include collaboration across schools, community agencies, youth development organizations, and institutions such as universities and hospitals to facilitate access to existing resources available in the community for children and families, and foster the healthy development of all students.

Co-authors of this paper include Mary E. Walsh, PhD, Kathleen Flanagan, PhD, and Norman C. Hursh, ScD, CRC, CVE.

City Connects’ Partner ReadBoston Featured

Photo by Dawkeye/Flickr

In a recent story on elementary school students’ reading achievement, “Making Sure Mass. 3rd Graders are Strong Readers,” WBUR interviewed the founder of one of City Connects’ community partners, ReadBoston.

Rick Weissbourd, who also founded WriteBoston, commented on the reading achievement gap related to poverty: while 37% of third-graders statewide read below grade level, among children from low-income families, 57% do. Weissbourd noted that an early difference in experience with spoken language may be related to the gap; children growing up in low-income families may come to school not knowing as many words as their peers growing up in more affluent families.

Reporter Sacha Pfeiffer dug deep into the issue, asking what factors in the lives of low-income families may be affecting the difference in spoken language experience. Weissbourd’s answer reinforces a core belief of the City Connects mission: poverty creates stress. An example is the pressure of working more than one job, which limits time for conversation with children. Weissbourd also cited the low-level depression that can accompany life under the pressure of poverty.

Like ReadBoston, the City Connects intervention aims to provide supports to students and families that can help address the out-of-school factors impacting achievement. Watch our blog in the days ahead for a description of City Connects’ successful partnership with ReadBoston at one of our schools.

For more information: