Children Are Resilient: A Letter to the Editor from Dr. Mary Walsh

An April 24 article in the Boston Globe tackled the challenges educators are dealing with in the third year of the pandemic, including how to support struggling students.

“Everything I’ve trained for, everything that’s worked in the past, none of it’s working,” said Laura Messner, a middle school English language arts literacy specialist in Scituate. “I’m very worried about what’s coming down the pike if we don’t think about how we’re going to address these challenges that are not temporary challenges.”

Dr. Mary Walsh, executive director of the Center for Thriving Children and expert in developmental psychology, wrote a response to the article, focused on concrete ways to better support students and teachers.

Dr. Walsh’s letter was published last week. 

“The article “Teachers help students struggling to succeed” powerfully covers the impacts of students’ challenges. It also highlights missed opportunities for more effectively supporting student — and teacher — well-being and learning.

“Though the challenges of the current COVID-19 era are real, children are also resilient. Mental health is bolstered by a range of interventions. Mild to moderate needs can be addressed with a caring school environment; after-school programs; mentors; participation in sports, arts, or other extracurricular activities; and relationships with peers and adults, while serious mental health needs require therapeutic treatment.

“Adding more counselors and social workers to extend current strategies is unlikely to be financially viable or sufficient to meet the need. Instead, schools that create systems of support to provide every student with an individualized support plan are seeing improvements. These systems connect each child to a tailored set of resources and enrichment opportunities to address that student’s strengths and needs, drawing on resources in the school, the community, or both. These systems of “integrated student supports” are now known to improve student well-being and learning, as well as support teachers who, early research shows, are less likely to leave the profession if their school has such a system in place.”

What Dr. Walsh conveyed in her letter reflects the City Connects practice, and its evidence of positive short- and long-term impacts on student learning and thriving. To learn more about the City Connects model, click here and to learn more about best practices for integrated student support go here.

Businesses see value in City Connects

In Indiana, City Connects has gotten a welcome nod from the business community. 

Our program is featured in the current issue of BizVoice, published by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. 

“Poverty, homelessness, illness, domestic violence and other issues heavily influence well-being,” the article, Beyond the Classroom, says of students. City Connects “is an innovative concept designed to help children engage and learn in school by connecting them with customized intervention, prevention, and enrichment services to thrive.”

This work is done by City Connects Coordinators, or, as some Indiana schools call them, “family navigators”. And as we’ve blogged, City Connects’ work in the Midwest is being managed by the City Connects Technical Assistance Center at Marion University’s Center for Vibrant Schools.

“We were very intentional with putting the family navigators in our schools that had students who faced the most obstacles and needed additional support. Our family navigators, along with our community partners, really build a network of support for the students, the families, the schools and the teachers who serve them,” Lee Ann Kwiatkowsk says in the article. She’s the director of public education and CEO of the Muncie Public Schools. 

The article also highlights how essential City Connects has proven to be during the pandemic. 

Continue reading “Businesses see value in City Connects”

Gathering equitable evidence and putting it into action

A silver lining of these challenging times is that there is new and welcome attention to the concept of equity. 

At City Connects, we’ve spent decades working to achieve equitable outcomes by serving all students.

Now we’re proud that the nonprofit organization Project Evident has recognized City Connects as an example of the use of “equitable evidence.”

With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Project Evident launched the Actionable Evidence Initiative, which seeks, as its website explains, “to engage stakeholders in the education sector to accelerate the development of evidence and solutions that can improve outcomes for students who are Black, Latino/a/x, or experiencing poverty.”

A key strategy is “supporting researchers, technical assistance providers, funders, and policymakers to adopt actionable evidence approaches that prioritize practitioners learning and decision making and centers on community needs and voices.”

Continue reading “Gathering equitable evidence and putting it into action”
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