Two briefs share City Connects’ positive impact

City Connects

Boston College’s Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children, home to City Connects, has released two new briefs on the impact City Connects is having on students and in schools. 

The first brief – The Impact of City Connects on Select Student Sub-Groups – looks at a series of studies that “have explored the impacts of City Connects on important student sub-groups who are especially vulnerable to lower academic and life outcomes.”

These groups include first-generation, immigrant, and English language learner students as well as African-American and Latino boys and students who receive special education services. 

The studies point to a number of benefits, among them improved student achievement for first-generation immigrant children and reduced dropout rates for African-American and Latino boys. 

These findings are crucial to ensuring that City Connects achieves its goal of addressing the needs of all students.

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A lesson for policymakers: when it comes to student support, quality matters

A new article published by the Washington, D.C., think tank Brookings, highlights the dynamic market for “student support” services that’s emerging as public funding increases to help schools address students’ social service and mental health needs, many of which were aggravated by the pandemic.

“School districts are now inundated with ‘student support’ service providers but have little guidance on how to select or manage them,” Joan Wassser Gish and Haibin Jiang write in the article, “Amid rush of school support vendors, policymakers must monitor quality.”

Wasser Gish is the Director of Systemic Impact, at the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children, the home of City Connects, and Jiang is one of the center’s Research Associates.

“With the field’s increasing understanding of what effective student support strategies look like, policymakers should establish quality benchmarks to help districts ensure a minimum, evidence-based standard of care for students,” Wasser Gish and Jiang explain.

“Just as the Food and Drug Administration strives to ensure that the health benefits of a new treatment outweigh potential harms, policymakers in education can use evidence to minimize potential risks and maximize the benefits of student support interventions.” 

Among the risks that local, state, and federal policymakers can minimize are:

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City Connects in the news

City Connects was featured in the news this summer in articles that emphasize the importance of providing integrated student support.

Here’s a roundup of those stories and their focus on key aspects of the City Connects model, including funding sources, data collection that supports students’ success, our work with community partners, and our partnerships with academic researchers.

Click on the links below to read more.

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“$7.5 million to fund Indy school program tackling out-of-class issues”
Fox59 News: “The city is putting $7.5 million toward a new in-school program to address out-of-class issues they say make learning more difficult. This includes issues like mental health care needs, food and housing.

“The program is called City Connects and it will be organized through Marian University’s Center for Vibrant Schools and Boston College, where the program first began.

“ ‘If the student is coming to class every day not having eaten, you can put a million academic interventions in place, and it just won’t address it,’ Jillian Lain, City Connects Midwest Coordinator, said.

“Essentially, if basic needs aren’t met, students can’t learn.

“ ‘City Connects not only talks about the academic challenges but also addresses out-of-school factors like needs of the family,’ Lain explained.” 


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From the archives: City Connects expands in the Midwest

While the blog is on summer vacation, we’re sharing past posts about the many ways City Connects helps students thrive. 

This week’s roundup looks at how City Connects has been growing in the Midwest. 

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City Connects takes root in Indianapolis
City Connects Blog, April 4, 2019

As City Connects expands in Indianapolis, Ind., we’re learning more about the power of local innovations.

Last September, City Connects launched in three Indianapolis schools, and we added two new features: a unique funding source and partnership with Marian University.

“I learned about City Connects years ago when I implemented this program in Springfield, Ohio, at a pre-K to 12 Catholic school system,” Dr. Ken Britt says. He is the Senior Vice President and Dean of Klipsch Educators College at Marian University. “I wanted to bring the program to Indiana because I believe that, coupled with our focus on teacher and leadership development, comprehensive student support can be a game-changer for young people. And there is no better program than City Connects.”

Frequently, school districts pay for City Connects using their own funds. Other districts have philanthropic partners who pay for some or all the costs. Indianapolis is unique because it’s the first district to use state funds. 

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From the archives: Sharing what we’re learning through papers, policy briefs, and articles

While the blog goes on summer vacation, we’ll spend the next few months sharing past posts and social media coverage about the many ways City Connects helps students thrive. 

This week’s roundup collects some of the articles, research briefs, and policy proposals published by our partners and by the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children that share insights drawn from City Connects’ evidence-based model of integrated student support. 

The Center for Thriving Children is the home of City Connects and is based at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. The Center “advances science, implementation, and innovation to promote healthy child and youth development, learning, and thriving.” 

These publications speak to long-standing student needs and to the ways these needs have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Continue reading “From the archives: Sharing what we’re learning through papers, policy briefs, and articles”

National Guidelines on Integrated Student Support

From the earliest days of the pandemic, we’ve seen how powerful it is for schools to provide integrated student support.

To share knowledge about this powerful approach, the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children – home to City Connects — has just released the first “National Guidelines for Integrated Student Support,” a joint project of experts in research and evaluation as well as in the practice of integrating comprehensive school- and community-resources for students.

The guidelines are a “first effort to encapsulate evidence-based best practices and define what high quality implementation looks like in the day-to-day functioning of schools.”

“Our hope is that, in your hands, this knowledge will raise the standards of care and opportunity provided to our nation’s children and youth,” the guidelines’ website says.

 The need is glaring.

“Students’ learning and wellbeing are increasingly impacted by the complex challenges of our time,” the report notes, adding:

“More than a third of high school students in the United States experienced poor mental health at least most of the time during the pandemic.”

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City Connects releases its 2022 Progress Report

We’re happy to announce the release of City Connects’ 2022 Progress Report. It’s a look at our history, our growth, and the progress we’ve made in schools as the world has navigated the pandemic.

As the report explains:

“In high-poverty urban schools, children face out-of-school challenges that can impede their success in the classroom and in life. Since the 1960’s, researchers have concluded that socioeconomic background is a significant factor affecting students’ academic achievement.”

City Connects helps by implementing a systematic, evidence-based model of integrated student support that addresses the out-of-school challenges stemming from poverty. And as City Connects has grown, expanding into more U.S. cities and into Dublin, Ireland, we’ve also seen growing interest in integrated student support.

“…particularly in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, interest in this work has grown in the worlds of practice, research, and policy,” the report says.

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City Connects in the news

City Connects Coordinators have been working harder than ever to meet the needs of students, families, and communities. 

Here’s a roundup of news stories that share some of the work coordinators are doing.


In Salem, Mass., a fire that damaged five buildings prompted a community-wide response that includes city officials, local charities, and City Connects Coordinators. 

“Our thoughts are with our Salem school families who were impacted by yesterday’s fire on Hancock Street,” Salem’s School Superintendent Stephen Zrike said in a news release

“Salem Public Schools’ City Connects Coordinators, Family Engagement Facilitators, and school leaders are working with identified staff and families who may have been impacted. If you have questions or have been impacted by the fire, please contact your school to be connected with those who can assist.”


In Indianapolis, Ind., Mayor Joe Hogsett is addressing the city’s mental health challenges. In March, he pledged to “implement a clinician-led mobile crisis team to respond to calls for help involving mental health situations in Indiana’s capital city,” the Indianapolis Star reports, adding that another part of the city’s efforts to address mental health is City Connects, which “lets the city work with school children and their families on mental health-related issues.”

 And as Indianapolis and other City Connects sites show, the supportive work that coordinators do inside schools integrates with and enhances community wide efforts.

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