City Connects in Springfield: results and the importance of integrated student supports

We’re excited to share a new article in CommonWealth magazine that tells the story of how Springfield is using City Connects to help its school children thrive.

The article — “‘Wraparound’ services helping kids succeed: Expansion of City Connects program to Springfield” – was co-authored by Daniel J. Warwick, Superintendent of the Springfield Public Schools, and Mary Walsh, the Executive Director of City Connects.

“When Children walk into their schools,” the article begins, “they make everyone feel what they feel. Teachers, principals, even superintendents can all feel the burdens students carry, especially those who struggle with poverty and despair. Some children talk about their challenges. Others don’t. Either way, educators and administrators feel the weight of the hunger, homelessness, mental health challenges, incarceration of parents, and other hardships that many children bear. We have to feel it, because being connected to children is the only way that we can successfully do our jobs. Continue reading

Happy Holidays! Reflecting on 2014 & what’s ahead in 2015

As 2014 draws to a close, we extend our sincere wishes for a happy holiday! Looking back at 2014, we have many things to celebrate and have collected some highlights to share as 2015 approaches.

The impact of City Connects depends in large part on the many exceptional school, community, and philanthropic partners with whom we are honored to work. Together, we ensure that children receive the tailored services and enrichment opportunities they need to be able to learn and thrive in school.

Over the past year, these partnerships have supported our expansion. We’re currently providing optimized student support to 20,000 students in 62 sites across 3 states!

National Network Growth: 2014-15

This fall, City Connects launched in several new sites across New York City, Ohio, and Massachusetts.

Research & Publications

The City Connects Evaluation Team, based at Boston College, has had a busy year. The most exciting development was the publication of a paper featuring some of our early findings in the the highly-regarded American Educational Research Journal. Several additional publications were released this year, including:

In 2015, with support from the I. A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation, the Evaluation Team will be examining long-term City Connects student outcomes and taking a deeper dive into teachers’ perceptions of City Connects.

City Connects in the News

City Connects was featured in several news outlets this year, including:

  • huff post eduDeserving of Celebration: Public Education Done Right
    July 3, 2014: “As we celebrate America’s independence … let’s also celebrate examples of comprehensive approaches to education that are doing it right and seeing great results. In Boston, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American revolution, City Connects celebrates its fifteenth year of providing comprehensive supports to students by leveraging community assets and connecting them to each students’ unique needs.”
  • Impacting Academic Achievement through Student Supportascd whole child
    June 24, 2014: “Our longitudinal research demonstrates that for children who attended City Connects schools in grades K–5, the beneficial effects continue into middle and 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.”
  • Education Week LogoLearning Payoff Found for City Connects Program
    September 30, 2014: “City Connects helps schools organize and align services for students, including the ‘great middle’-students who are neither excelling enough to be tapped for gifted programs nor struggling enough to be identified for special education.”
  • Helping students with needs that extend outside the classroom
    November 24, 2014: “City Connects is based on the simple idea that a child distracted by pain, fear, or deprivation can’t possibly do as well in school as a child without those challenges. So City Connects tries to resolve as many of those issues as possible.”

We wish you the very best in 2015!

Four City Connects Turnaround Schools Upgraded as Statewide Test Results Announced

Four City Connects schools in Massachusetts have been upgraded from “Turnaround” status with the results of the 2012-13 MCAS statewide tests, announced today by the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We extend our congratulations to the following schools:

  • Boston Public Schools:
    • JFK Elementary
    • Orchard Gardens K-8
  • Springfield Public Schools:
    • Gerena Elementary School
    • Zanetti K-8

City Connects is proud to be a part of the large Turnaround effort that had positive results in these schools!

For more information:

City Connects Year in Review: Springfield, MA

2012 marked the second year of City Connects implementation in Springfield (MA) Public Schools. The engagement began in five of Springfield’s turnaround elementary schools and this year, expanded to three turnaround middle schools. This marks City Connects’ first expansion to freestanding middle schools; we are now reaching about 2,800 students in Springfield! Some highlights include:

  • Across all schools in the 2011-12 academic year, City Connects partnered with more than 100 agencies to arrange 14, 500 services for students in Springfield Public Schools.
  • After our first year in Springfield Public Schools, results of the 2012 teacher survey were exceptionally positive: 91% of teachers reported satisfaction with City Connects and 89% reported that they would recommend City Connects to a teacher in another school.
  • City Connects held its first-ever community partner meeting, where more than 85 community agencies gathered at Springfield College to launch the Springfield “Wraparound Zone” Initiative. Read more about the meeting here.
  • Mary Walsh, City Connects’ Executive Director, and Julie Donovan, City Connects Program Manager in Springfield, were invited to speak to the Springfield School Committee. They shared the initial positive results from the first year of implementation.

For more information:

  • Check out our Year in Review: Boston  and Ohio posts.

MCAS Results Released

Results from Massachusetts’ statewide standardized tests, the MCAS (short for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System), were released last week. The Boston Globe summarized the results:

Nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts public schools are falling short of performance targets under the state’s new evaluation system, even as struggling urban districts achieve solid gains, state officials reported Wednesday.

In Boston, as well as other city districts, results on the standardized tests were mixed. Scores among 10th-graders rose to new heights. But in the lower grades, results were largely stagnant, and in a number of cases dropped.

Statewide, about 1,000 of nearly 1,600 public schools did not meet the new targets on the standardized tests this year, ­either for “high-needs” students, such as those with disabilities or from low-income families, or for the student body as a whole.

Here at City Connects, we are especially proud of four of our Springfield Public Schools–these ” turnaround” schools made double-digit gains in scores over the last two years: Homer Street, Zanettti, Brookings, and Gerena.

Our evaluation shows that students in City Connects schools outperform their Boston peers in middle school and achieve close to state proficiency levels in both English and Math MCAS. After leaving a City Connects school at the end of grade 5, significant long-term effects continue through eighth grade. Learn more about our impact on MCAS scores here.

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

City Connects Awarded $400,000 Grant to Develop Student Support Sustainability Plan

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has awarded City Connects a $400,000, two-year award to develop strategies that build district capacity to sustain effective student support programs in schools. City Connects will be partnering with Boston and Springfield public schools for this work, which is supported by the DESE Priority Partners for Turnaround Investment Fund.

“We are pleased to receive this award, which will allow us to develop a strategy to sustain evidence-based student support efforts in schools,” said Mary E. Walsh, PhD, executive director of City Connects and the Kearns Professor in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. “It is crucial that schools and districts are able to maintain systemic student support after the federal funding has run its course. We look forward to collaborating with Boston and Springfield districts to devise strategies to enable them to keep the work going.”

Read the full press release here.

City Connects Springfield Update

Springfield EducatorCity Connects’ work in Springfield Public Schools (SPS) was featured in the Spring 2012 issue  [pdf] of the Springfield Educator. The conclusion of this school year marks the first year of City Connects’ implementation in six transformation (Level 4) SPS elementary schools. Next year, three SPS Level 4 middle schools will also be implementing City Connects.

The article comes on the heels of the first-ever gathering of community partners working with SPS, held on May 9. Convened at Springfield College, a partner with SPS and City Connects, the meeting marked the official launch of the Springfield “Wraparound Zone” Initiative. Wraparound Zones are an effort  funded through the state’s Race to the Top grant designed to build district capacity to systematically address students’ non-academic barriers to learning.

Springfield Community Meeting
Julie Donovan and Dr. Ingram at the Springfield Public Schools Wraparound Zone launch May 9.

Julie Donovan, the City Connects Program Manager in Springfield, welcomed more than 85 community partners to the meeting. Dr. Alan Ingram, Superintendent of Springfield Public Schools, opened the day by discussing the importance of the connection between home and school.

“Twenty-six thousand students in our schools live in poverty. Morally, we can’t ignore it. Poor children can do well in school with the right supports,” Dr. Ingram said. Students only spend a small part of their day in the classroom, he said, so we can’t turn around schools by only looking inside the classroom. The solution is to bring fragmented parts of the community together to work on behalf of children.