Report: Schools, Partners Must Do More to Address External Barriers to Academic Success

Today, WBUR’s education blog Learning Lab took a closer look at the Rennie Center’s “Condition of Education in the Commonwealth” report and policy recommendations. The story, “Report: Schools, Partners Must Do More to Address External Barriers to Academic Success,”  focuses on the impact out-of-school factors have on student achievement and features insight from City Connects’ executive director, Mary Walsh. Given the rise in the number of students living in poverty, the Rennie Center’s recommendation for a robust statewide student support program is particularly timely. From the article:

“[Attending to students’ out-of-school needs] has been a challenge for our educational system that has been emerging for the past two decades,” said Chad d’Entremont, executive director of the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy and co-author of the report. “In particular high-needs students, those in poverty, continue to struggle.”

For more information:

  • Read the article here, and see our previous post on the Rennie Center’s Condition of Education report here
  • Follow Learning Lab on Twitter @LearningLabMA

Education Week: “Learning Payoff Found for City Connects Program”

Education WeekThe work of City Connects was featured today on the front page of Education Week: Learning Payoff Found for City Connects Program.”

The catalyst for the story was a paper authored by our Evaluation Team that was recently published in the American Educational Research Journal (AERJ). The paper demonstrates City Connects‘ positive impact on elementary and middle school students’ academic achievement.

City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh says:
While schools have always made efforts to address students’ out-of-school needs, the City Connects AERJ paper shows that using evidence to inform practice, making effective use of community resources, and tailoring a plan for every student can alter trajectories for children. It’s a call to action to change the way we address the achievement gap and the ‘poverty gap’ in our most challenged schools and to rethink how school counselors, social workers, and other student support staff meet the needs of students.

New Report Details Positive Outcomes for City Connects Students, Schools

Fifteen years ago, a small team of school, university, and community partners began working on creating the system of student support that is now City Connects. We were  hopeful that we would be able to demonstrate that addressing students’ out-of-school needs would lead to improvements in academic achievement and student well-being.

Our hopes have been more than realized. City Connects not only supports student thriving in school, but contributes to significant academic gains as well.  Our longitudinal research shows that for children who attended City Connects in elementary schools, the beneficial effects continue into high school. We can definitively say that the City Connects system of student support makes a positive and long-term difference in the lives of children.

We are pleased to announce the publication of The Impact of City Connects: Progress Report 2014, detailing results from the 2011-12 academic year in City Connects’ Boston and–for the first time–Springfield, MA, public schools. Highlights include:

  • Lower rates of dropout
    Students who attended City Connects elementary schools beginning in kindergarten have 50% lower odds of dropping out of high school than students never in a City Connects school. See page 25 of the report for the full analysis. 
  • Improved standardized test scores
    After leaving City Connects elementary schools at the end of grade 5, students go on to outperform their peers in middle school and achieve close to state averages on both English and Math statewide standardized test scores (MCAS). Benefits are especially pronounced for students most at risk, like English Language Learners. See page 22 of the report for the full analysis.
  • Supporting school transformation
    After one year of implementing City Connects in Springfield’s persistently underperforming (“turnaround”) elementary schools, the gap between these schools and other Springfield schools was significantly reduced in grades 3, 4, and 5 for both English and Math MCAS. See page 35 of the report for the full analysis.

“The data in this report make clear that thoughtful strategies and rigorous practices that provide non-academic supports for students can make a significant difference toward closing the achievement gap for children living in poverty,” said Mary E. Walsh, Ph.D., Executive Director of City Connects and the Kearns Professor at the Boston College Lynch School of Education. “Schools have always made efforts to address students’ out-of-school needs. This report shows that using evidence to inform practice, making effective use of community resources, and tailoring a plan for every student can alter trajectories for children. It has implications for changing the way school counselors, social workers, and other student support staff meet the needs of students.”

For more information:

“Making the Grade” Child Trends webinar now posted

Last Thursday, City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh participated in a webinar hosted by Child Trends related to its recent report, “Making the Grade: Assessing the Evidence for Integrated Student Supports.” Child Trends Senior Scholar Kristin Anderson Moore presented the report’s findings, which look at the existing evidence from programs providing supports to students, including City Connects. Joining Mary Walsh as respondents were Daniel Cardinali, President, Communities In Schools and Jane Quinn, Vice President for Community Schools at The Children’s Aid Society and Director of the National Center for Community Schools.

Watch the webinar on Child Trends website here.

For more information:
  • See our post about the Child Trends report here
  • Explore more of City Connects results here

Register now for the Child Trends Student Support webinar on March 6!

On the heels of last week’s Child Trends report, “Making the Grade: Assessing the Evidence for Integrated Student Services,” registration is now open for a free webinar about the report to be held on Thursday, March 6, from 2:30-3:45pm EST. In addition to City Connects executive director Mary Walsh, webinar presenters include:

For more information:

Child Trends report on “Integrated Student Supports” features City Connects

A new report issued today by Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center,  includes City Connects as an evidence-based example that  demonstrates how student support positively impacts children. The report, “Assessing the Evidence for Integrated Student Services,” examines the definition of integrated student supports and its effectiveness at improving educational outcomes. City Connects was one of three student support organizations–along with Communities in Schools and the Comer School Development Program (Comer SDP), whose evidence was examined.

Child Trend defines “integrated student supports” (ISS) as a school-based approach to promoting students’ academic success by developing or securing and coordinating supports that target academic and non-academic barriers to achievement. This is closely aligned with City Connects’ mission to have every child engage and learn in school by connecting each student with the tailored set of intervention, prevention, and enrichment services he or she needs to thrive.  Child Trends identified five common components to improve academic achievement found across many, if not all, of the ISS models that have emerged in recent years–all of which are incorporated into City Connects’ system of student support:

City Connects’ executive director Mary Walsh will be participating in a free Child Trends webinar on the report, “Making the Grade: Assessing the Evidence for Integrated Student Services,” on Thursday, March 6. Register now to hear from Mary Walsh, as well as representatives from Child Trends, Communities in Schools, and the National Center for Community Schools at the Children’s Aid Society.

For more information:

Barr Foundation Awards City Connects $1.4M to Support Students in Boston Public Schools

Barr FoudnationThe Barr Foundation has awarded City Connects $1.4 million over 3 years to continue implementing optimized student support in Boston Public Schools. The Barr Foundation has been a lead funder of City Connects since its inception and their ongoing support enables City Connects to continue offering student support to 18 Boston Public schools.

“The Barr Foundation’s support allows us to continue working in Boston Public Schools, where7,800 children benefit from the student support provided by City Connects,” said Mary E. Walsh, Ph.D., Executive Director of City Connects and Kearns Professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. “With this funding, we are able to continue our longitudinal research on the ways City Connects positively impacts students and schools. We see that children in City Connects high schools, for example, have lower dropout rates—long after they have left a City Connects elementary school. Supporting Boston’s students and being able to examine how student support contributes to these positive outcomes is critical. We are very grateful for the Barr Foundation’s belief in our mission.”

 

City Connects’ Executive Director Authors Paper on School–University Partnerships

School–University Partnerships: Reflections and OpportunitiesCity Connects Executive Director Mary E. Walsh recently authored a paper, “School–University Partnerships: Reflections and Opportunities,” in an issue of the Peabody Journal of Education focused on the promise of universities in school reform. The article describes the history of school–university partnerships and the recent shift where the needs of schools are increasingly driving the formation of partnerships. Walsh identified student support as a relatively neglected area of school–university partnerships and describe the lessons learned from developing and scaling up the City Connects project, itself a school-university partnership.  The full text of the article is available on the Peabody Journal website.

Mary Walsh is joining other authors of papers in the same issue of the Peabody Journal to discuss universities and school reform in an upcoming webinar hosted by the Coalition for Community Schools. Held on Jan. 31 from 3-4pm, the webinar features commentary by:

  • Dr. Ira Harkavy, Associate Vice President and Director, Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania
  • Dr. Robert Kronick, Director of University-Assisted Community Schools, University of Tennessee Knoxville
  • Dr. Henry Taylor, Founding Director, Center for Urban Studies, University of Buffalo
  • Dr. Mary Walsh, Director, Boston College Center for Optimized Student Support, Boston College

The webinar is co-sponsored by the Anchor Institution Task Force, Netter Center for Community Partnerships, and Coalition for Community Schools at the Institute for Educational Leadership. Register for the webinar here.