Helping Children See More of What They’re Learning

City Connects

We know that good healthcare helps students do better in school.

But it’s tough for many children in our schools to get access to eye doctors who can provide the vision screening and services that children need.

And because children won’t always say that they can’t see the board, sometimes teachers and our City Connects site coordinators have to spot the clues: a child who is always looking down or who may be squinting.

So, it was an honor last month when City Connects was recognized as an “Esteemed Community Partner” by Children’s Vision Massachusetts, a coalition of “parents, nurses, pediatricians, educators, public health professionals, optometrists and ophthalmologists.”

We were recognized at the coalition’s Eastern Massachusetts Summit, which was held at the Boston Children’s Museum.

As the coalition points out, a National Institutes of Health-funded study “has shown that uncorrected farsightedness in preschool children is associated with significantly worse performance on a test of early literacy.”

“This study suggests that an untreated vision problem in preschool, in this case one that makes it harder for children to see things up-close, can create literacy deficits that affect grade school readiness,” Dr. Maryann Redford, a program director in Collaborative Clinical Research at the National Eye Institute, said in January.

In other words, something as basic as eye care — an easy and affordable service — can help students thrive.

That’s why City Connects works to link children to eye care services such as New England Eye’s mobile vision unit. This is one part of a larger commitment to boosting children’s access to an array of health services.  During the 2014-15 school year, City Connects linked students in Springfield, Mass., to more than 1,200 health and medical services.

Among these high numbers is City Connect’s customized, signature approach: Get the right services to the right child at the right time.

 

 

City Connects Year in Review: Boston

This week on the blog we’ll be looking at the year in review across our 45 sites in three geographic areas: Boston (public and Catholic schools), Springfield (MA), and Ohio.

City Connects is currently implemented in 17 Boston Public Schools, our original site. Here are some BPS highlights:

  • For the 2012-12 school year, City Connects partnered with its first in-district charter school, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School, and its first public high school, the Quincy Upper School.
  • Across Boston Public Schools, in the 2011-12 school year, City Connects partnered with 250 community agencies to arrange more than 30,000 services and enrichment activities for students.
  • 2012 brought some exciting new findings on the long-term benefits of City Connects for students after they have a City Connects elementary school, including significantly lower rates of chronic absenteeism in middle school and significantly lower rates of school dropout after the age of 16.
  • Results of our 2012 teacher survey in Boston were exceptionally positive, with 95% of teachers reporting satisfaction with City Connects and 95% reporting that they would recommend City Connects to a teacher in another school.
  • City Connects’ New Balance Foundation Health & Wellness curriculum continues to show positive results for children across all four units: nutrition, physical activity, social/emotional wellbeing, and healthy choices.

City Connects in Catholic Schools (CCCS) is currently active in 17 schools in the greater Boston area, as well as one freestanding Early Childcare center. Highlights from CCCS include:

  • In the 2011-12 school year, CCCS  linked students to more than 11,000 services and enrichment activities provided by 100 community agencies.
  • This year, CCCS partnered with a freestanding Early Childcare center for the first time, Catholic Charities’ Nazareth Child Care Center in Jamaica Plain. An Early Childhood adaptation of City Connects is being piloted at this center.
  • Analysis of CCCS’s work with Early Childhood populations (ages 3-7)  suggests that students in Early Childhood programs in City Connects schools show significantly more growth in school readiness over a 3-year period than students in comparison schools.

Check back tomorrow for more “Year in Review” updates!

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.

Report Gives Massachusetts “D” Grade on Youth Physical Activity

A new report from the Boston Foundation and NEHI, a nonprofit, independent health policy institute, handed out grades to Massachusetts across a range of areas in its “Healthy People/Healthy Economy” [pdf] annual report card. Sadly, Massachusetts earned a lackluster “D” in the category of youth physical activity. The report explains why:

  • In 2009, one in every four students in Massachusetts did not participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per week and almost half—42%—of Massachusetts public school students did not attend any physical education classes.
  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 18 percent of Massachusetts schools offer daily gym classes, compared with a 30% national average.
  • According to a July 2011 report, Massachusetts is at the bottom of all states when it comes to physical activity for high
    school students.

To try to improve on this front, the Coalition has filed legislation urging state standards to require at least 30 minutes of physical activity during the school day, every day, for all students.

For more information:

Community Partners Health & Wellness Breakfast: Video Posted

Over on our YouTube channel, we’ve posted video of the speakers’ presentations from our May 11 community breakfast, where the topic was “Creating Dynamic School Partnerships to Increase Health & Wellness of Students.” The 5 videos include:

  • Dr. Mary Walsh, executive director of City Connects, discussing  the critical roles health and fitness play in student success, as well as City Connects data about health and wellness services students receive.
  • Dr. Linda Grant, medical director, Boston Public Schools,  discussing prevention, intervention, and management strategies that schools can and are using to support children.
  • Jill Carter, executive director of health & wellness, Boston Public Schools, discussing initiatives in her department to support health and wellness across all schools in the district.
  • Simon Ho, principal, Josiah Quincy Elementary School, discussing how he implements a comprehensive and coordinated health and wellness program for students at the Quincy.
  • Patrice DiNatale, director of new practice at City Connects, discussing how City Connects integrates health as a core component of student support.

What’s Next for Coordinated School Health?

There is a must-read post on ASCD‘s Whole Child Blog today, “What’s Next for Coordinated School Health? Moving from Rhetoric to Sustainable Action.” Based on an Oct. 16 session from the American School Health Association’s annual conference, the post summarizes how health and wellness are inextricably linked to students’ academic achievement. Here’s an excerpt:

So what has held educators back from wholeheartedly embracing health and well-being across their schools and systems? The answer is somewhat twofold—on the one hand there are schools that hold a belief that they are there only to educate the child academically—however the overwhelming evidence that shows that a students’ physical, mental, social, and emotional health plays a significant role in determining what students can learn cognitively dispels this notion. On the other hand there are schools that appreciate the effects of student health on student growth and learning—so why haven’t these schools done a more comprehensive job in aligning health and education? Ultimately it may be the existence of CSH itself. The fact that there has been a section of the system that has been designed to cater to the health needs of students has in fact allowed education to ignore or push health aside. It has perpetuated the siloing of health and education.

We are excited that Dr. Susan Wooley, president of the American School Health Association, will be speaking about the critical role of health and wellness in optimized student support at our upcoming conference on Nov. 5.

For more information:

Registration Now Open for City Connects Conference on Optimized Student Support

Registration is now open for City Connects’ first-ever conference, Optimized Student Support: Best Practices for Schools & Community Agencies, held at Boston College on Friday, November 5.

With the support of the New Balance Foundation, the conference will provide a forum for presentations, discussions, questions, and networking as we address critical ways to optimize support for students and ensure all children come to school ready to learn and thrive.

Recent dialogue has acknowledged the importance of this core function of schools and has raised some challenging questions. Can schools provide quality instruction and at the same time offer comprehensive student support? How can we best address students’ strengths as well as needs? What characterizes effective partnerships with community agencies? How can we ensure breadth across academic, social-emotional, health, and family domains?

We believe that the promising and exciting work of recent years points the way not only to optimizing student support in schools and districts, but to innovative ways of demonstrating that it is essential to student achievement and thriving. We look forward to sharing evidence-based best practices among educators, administrators, researchers, community agency leaders, and student support professionals.

Registration is free but space is limited.

Register Now!

Third-graders Embrace Healthy Lifestyle with “Chop Chop” Magazine

Chop Chop magazineThis month, with the support of the New Balance Foundation, City Connects site coordinators distributed the health-focused kids’ magazine “Chop Chop” to all City Connects third-graders–nearly 1,000 students.

ChopChop is a quarterly food magazine for children and their families aiming to educate kids about how to cook and be nutritionally literate, empower them to actively participate as health partners with their families, and help establish and support better eating habits for a lifetime of good nutrition. The magazine features nutritious, ethnically diverse, and inexpensive recipes, as well as interesting food facts, Q&A’s, and games.

City Connects Health  Coordinator Rachel Garcia reported back after distributing the publication to the third-graders at the JFK school:

I meet with the 3rd grade classes on Friday. They were very excited to get a magazine, and as soon as I handed them out, they wanted to browse through them immediately. I did a quick picture walk through the magazines and they seemed very interested in the different types of content inside. They also loved the illustrations, especially the one of the carrot and pea boxing– it was depicting which had more vitamin content.

For more information:

  • On Twitter, follow Chop Chop magazine @ChopChopMag and New Balance @NewBalance