Massachusetts Governor Hosts Education Summit

This morning, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick hosted Education Summit 2011: Closing the Achievement Gap. Joined by Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville and members of the Boards of Early Education and Care, of Elementary and Secondary Education, and of Higher Education, along with the UMass Board of Trustees, he issued a call to action: make sure every child in Massachusetts has the opportunity to access quality education.

Governor Patrick echoed what we at City Connects see in our schools every day: poverty and other out-of-school factors can be huge impediments to a child’s ability to learn and thrive in school. The Boston Globe reported on a new study showing the concentrations of poverty across the city today. The Governor said:

“We know what the problem is and we know where the problem is. The problem is poverty.  It’s not unions, people; we are leading the nation in student achievement in one of the most highly-unionized environments in American education.  It’s not money; in K-12 we are spending at record levels and have sustained that spending, thanks to the Legislature and the Obama administration, through the worst economy in living memory.  It’s poverty …  I’m not saying that we don’t need more flexibility in the classroom and more money.  I’m saying when it comes to patterns of educational achievement nothing is as significant as poverty.”

His speech laid out four strategies that build upon the Achievement Gap Act of 2010 (read a summary of the Act here):

  1. Getting every child to reading proficiency by the third grade;
  2. Providing every child with a healthy platform for education;
  3. Creating a differentiated education system that meets each student, particularly English Language Learners, where they are; and
  4. Preparing all students for college and career success.

The Governor’s second priority closely parallels the work of City Connects’ School Site Coordinators, who work to provide tailored supports and enrichment services to children. He expounded on this strategy:

“…All children need a healthy start – and when they can’t get it at home, we must find a way to provide it for them.  Poverty begets a whole host of out-of-school problems that affect the readiness of a child to learn in the classroom.  Mental health issues, family violence, housing instability and inadequate nutrition – all are real and present obstacles to student attendance, attentiveness and success.  Teachers know it and they, along with school nurses, do their very best to help; but they can’t be expected single-handedly to solve such complex problems in the lives of their students. So, we propose establishing Student Support Councils and deploying Student Support Counselors to predominantly low-income schools.  Possibly even early education centers or colleges.   These Councils will consist of local human and social service providers focusing their efforts on connecting with students and families through the schools to help meet their needs outside of school.”

Following the Governor’s speech, breakout sessions were held on teacher quality, student support, and career readiness. City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh was asked to serve as a guest speaker for the student support session, where she relayed her experiences and views on the best practices of student support. We know that optimized student support improves academic performance for students and look forward to learning more about statewide student support initiatives.

For more information:

City Connects at the Council of the Great City Schools Meeting

On Friday, City Connects executive director Mary Walsh and director of new practice Patrice DiNatale will be presenting at the Council of the Great City Schools 55th annual meeting in Boston. Their talk, “Addressing Out-of-School Factors to Drive Achievement,” will share the City Connects model of student support and our results. The Council of the Great City Schools is a national organization representing 65 of the nation’s largest urban school districts. This year, Boston Public Schools is hosting the meeting, which is focused on education reform.

For more information:

  • Attend the panel on Friday, Oct. 28, 9:15-10:30am in the Helicon room, 7th floor
  • Keep up with conference news on Twitter with hashtag #cgcs11 or follow the Council of the Great City Schools @GreatCitySchls

City Connects APA Poster Looks at Bullying

City Connects team member Sarah Backe, a Counseling Psychology graduate student in the Lynch School of Education, presented a poster at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association last week. Her poster, “The Positive Impact of an Evidence-Based Student Support System on Bullying and Victimization” explored the impact that the City Connects intervention is having on students’ social experiences.

Sarah’s study utilized students’ self reports of bullying (picking on other kids) and victimization (being picked on by others) to examine whether time spent in City Connects was having an impact on these experiences. On the whole, students reported that they rarely engaged in bullying behavior toward their peers. However, student reports of victimization indicated that this happens at greater frequency. While exposure to City Connects was not associated with any changes in self-reported bullying behavior, results indicated that greater exposure to City Connects (i.e., more years spent in the intervention) was associated with student reports of less frequent victimization.

This exploratory study indicates that an optimized model of school-wide student support, such as that promoted by the City Connects intervention, may have positive impacts on peer victimization in schools. These findings suggest that prevention and intervention programs don’t need to be exclusively focused on bullying behaviors to have a positive impact on the social experiences of students in schools.

Sarah hopes that future research on optimizing student support will include consideration of the ways in which powerful experiences of the peer group may impact the achievement and thriving of students. She is excited by the results of her study and suggests that primary prevention programs such as City Connects should be utilized to promote the achievement and thriving of individual students while also promoting a supportive school climate.

Co-authors of this poster included Anastasia Raczek, MEd, and Mary E. Walsh, PhD.

City Connects Named Priority Partner for Turnaround Schools through Massachusetts’ Race to the Top Grant

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has named City Connects a “Priority Partner” for turnaround schools in the area of social, emotional, and health needs. A project of the Commonwealth’s Race to the Top grant, the Priority Partners for Turnaournd initiative is aimed at qualifying proven organizations to support district and school turnaround efforts.

“Children living in high-poverty urban settings face countless challenges that impact learning and healthy development,” said Mary E. Walsh, PhD, executive director of City Connects and the Kearns Professor in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. “As a priority vendor, we are pleased to have the opportunity to work with districts and turnaround schools across the state to address the out-of-school factors that can stand in the way of student achievement.”

DESE has identified vendors to be part of a Priority Partners for Turnaround network. The network will serve as a resource for districts and schools seeking partnerships with educational service providers to help turn around their lowest achieving schools by addressing the state’s priority conditions for school effectiveness, one of which is social, emotional, and health needs. City Connects will work directly with local districts, and in cooperation with DESE, to provide these services.

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.

City Connects Executive Director in Education Week

On the heels of the Education Innovation Forum happening in DC later this week, City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh was quoted in an Education Week article about the Forum. Read the article here:

Event Aims to Leverage ‘i3’ Competition Momentum

Said Mary:

I’ve written a lot of grants in my life, and no one has ever said, ‘Well, you didn’t get it, but here is the chance to talk to a large and deep group of policymakers, grantmakers, the for-profit world. … Let’s have a conversation and see where your ideas and your practice can move,’” said Mary Walsh, the executive director of City Connects, a Boston-based organization that promotes the integration of academics with support services.

Stay tuned for updates from the Forum on Thursday and Friday, or come visit us in booth 201! We’ll be updating via Twitter @CityConnects using the hashtag #EdInno.

Speaker Slides from the Optimized Student Support Conference

As promised, we are sharing the slides that our speakers presented on Nov. 5 at the Optimized Student Support: Best Practices for Schools & Community Agencies conference. Click on the name of the presentation to download the slides as pdfs.

City Connects Executive Director Featured on EdReformer

Dr. Mary Walsh, City Connects’ executive director and the Kearns Professor of Urban Education & Innovative Leadership at the Lynch School of Education, Boston College, was featured in a Q&A on EdReformer today. EdReformer is an online community of advocates, innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors seeking to improve student learning worldwide.

For more information:

  • Follow EdReformer on Twitter @EdReformer
  • See related coverage of City Connects on our News page