One in five schools considered high-poverty

The latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ “The Condition of Education 2013” report, released in May, shows that one in five schools was considered high poverty in 2011, an increase from one in eight in 2000. More than 16 million children live in poverty in the U.S. At City Connects, we continue to believe that the until we address poverty and the myriad ways it impacts a child’s ability to learn and thrive, the achievement gap will persist.

Today, former Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville has a commentary in Education Week advocating a “massive redesign” of the education system. Our current model is not working, he writes, and schools alone are not equipped to confront the many challenges of poverty:

I believe that our experience demonstrates, as Richard Rothstein and others have argued, that schools alone, conceived in our current early-20th-century model, are too weak an intervention, if our goal is to get all students to high levels of achievement. Even when optimized with high expectations, strong curriculum, and expert instruction, today’s schools have not proven powerful enough by themselves to compensate for the disadvantages associated with poverty. Of course, there are notable exceptions of individuals and schools defying the odds, but these schools are isolated examples at the margin. We have not been able to scale up their success. The exceptions have not proven a new rule, though some practices have shown promise. The gaps, on average, persist. After 20 years of school reform experience, the data don’t lie.

His ideal 21st-century school would “[meet] every child where he or she is, [provide] education and support beginning in early childhood, and [include] postsecondary learning.” Reville writes that this new model  “should not mass-produce education, but should tailor the education to the individual, much as a health-care system does.”

At City Connects, we tailor our work to the individual strengths and needs of every child in a school across four areas: academics, social/emotional/behavioral, health, and family. Each student in a school is connected to a set of services and enrichment activities that address his or her unique needs. Evaluation of our work shows that by addressing the in- and out-of-school factors impacting students, they are better able to achieve in school–even if that school is high-poverty.

For more information:


Back to School 2012

Photo by tncountryfan/Flickr

Thursday is the first day of school for Boston Public School students–about 56,000 of whom will be returning to one of Boston’s 138 schools. Welcome back! To find out which 16 schools in Boston have City Connects, check out the “Where We Are” section of our website. Students in Springfield Public Schools have been back since August 27; on our website, you can also see the 8 Springfield, Mass., schools with City Connects.

Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville posted a welcome message today that gives some updates about the Commonwealth’s plans for the  academic year. One item on the agenda that we zeroed in on: addressing the out-of-school factors that impact students:

We will also be sharpening our work to address the non-school factors that too often get in the way of students attending school or being ready to learn once they get there.  The issues traditionally associated with poverty – hunger, health issues, homelessness – present serious roadblocks that prevent students from realizing their full academic potential. Through the efforts of our Child & Youth Readiness Cabinet and Wraparound Zone staff, we will forge stronger connections between schools, districts and local human services providers to ensure that every student in Massachusetts comes to school healthy and ready to learn.

City Connects will be providing optimized student support to more than 8,800 students in Boston and Springfield public schools this year. As Secretary Reville wrote, we know that addressing the out-of-school factors impacting students will help them learning and thrive in school. We wish everyone a healthy and happy school year!

For more information:

  • On Twitter, follow Secretary Reville and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education @MassEducation and Boston Public Schools @BostonSchools

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:

Clap Innovation School in the News

Governor Patrick reading with students at the Roger Clap Innovation School on September 13. Photo: Matt Bennett/Governor's Office

Dorchester’s Roger Clap Innovation School, the first Innovation School in Boston Public Schools (BPS), has been in the news lately. A new City Connects school for this academic year, the Clap’s Innovation status gives it the freedom to take a creative approach to school transformation. As one of 18 Innovation Schools in Massachusetts, the Clap was awarded a $50,000 Innovation School Implementation Grant by the state to train teachers and to prepare them for the school’s curriculum.

To kick off the school year, Boston Mayor Tom Menino, along with BPS Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson, cut a ribbon at the school on September 7 to officially open the school. Read about the Mayor and Superintendent’s visit in the Boston Globe story, “Roger Clap Innovation School officially opens in Dorchester.”

On September 13, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Secretary of Education Paul Reville visited the Clap, which you can also read about in the Globe: “At Clap school in Dorchester, Patrick stresses closing achievement gap.”

For more information:

City Connects in Education Week’s ‘Futures of School Reform’ blog

As we wrote about earlier this week, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville has been writing this week about the importance of addressing non-school factors in education reform. Today, he authored a blog post, “Bolder, Broader Action: Strategies for Closing the Poverty Gap,” that mentions City Connects as a successful strategy for addressing out-of-school factors. As Secretary Reville wrote:

“… the challenge now is to translate our analysis into action by implementing a series of strategies, coupled with measurable outcomes, to ensure success.”

We feel strongly about evidence informing our practice and have conducted rigorous evaluation of our work. Learn more about City Connects’ positive impact on:

Out-of-School Factors In the News

Central to our philosophy at City Connects is that the out-of-school factors affecting students have a great impact on their ability to learn and thrive in school. (You can read about how we address out-of-school factors for children here.)

Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute has written beautifully on the subject, most recently in an issue brief, “How to Fix our Schools.” In the brief, Rothstein reiterates research that demonstrates only one-third of the achievement gap in schools is due to quality of instruction.

“Decades of social science research have demonstrated that differences in the quality of schools can explain about one-third of the variation in student achievement. But the other two-thirds is attributable to non-school factors,” he wrote.

Two great articles published recently advocated for addressing out-of-school factors. Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville and Jeffrey R. Henig, professor of political science and education at Columbia University, jointly authored a commentary, “Why Attention Will Return to Non-School Factors,” in Education Week. Reville and Henig wrote:

“Our vision of the future of education reform is simple: American schools won’t achieve their goal of ‘all students at proficiency’ unless they attend to nonschool factors.”

They propose a multi-tiered solution comprising data that links student outcomes to services, quantifiable indicators of success that are measured long-term, and benchmarks that can provide feedback on student progress. Reville wrote an accompanying blog post, “Closing the Poverty Gap: The Way Forward for Education Reform,” about the relationship between poverty and student achievement in Massachusetts.

In the New York Times, Lisa Belkin considers attempts to increase parental engagement in schools in her article, “Whose Failing Grade Is It?“. Belkin introduces several pieces of state legislation aimed at mandating parents’ involvement in their children’s schools as a means to improve student performance. Belkin quotes Diane Ravitch, an education historian, who argues that parent education should be targeted to parents when their children are born up to age five. Ravitch goes on to say:

“…We need to acknowledge that the root problem is poverty.”

These two pieces call attention to the impact out-of-school factors can have on children–something we believe in strongly at City Connects. Our systematic approach to supporting students strengths and needs has proven effective; you can read about our results here.

Massachusetts’ Education Year in Review

Secretary Reville

Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville just published a full review of the 2010 “Year in Education.” You can read the entire report here. Highlights include Governor Patrick signing the Achievement Gap Act, as well as Massachusetts earning the top score in the nation and $250 million in the Race to the Top competition.

For more information:

City Connects in the Boston Globe

City Connects was featured in today’s Boston Globe–read the full story here:

Hub Student Social Services Group Girds for a New Task: Growing


The story featured the Edison School in Brighton and included input from the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, Paul Reville, as well as John Verre, the Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services for Boston Public Schools.

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