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:

New Publication: The Lasting Impact of Optimized Student Support

Cover of Winter 2014 ImpactAs we ring in the new year, we are excited to share a new publication. City Connects: The Lasting Impact of Student Support is an updated overview of our system of student support and the positive results it has on students and schools.

It debuts some exciting new findings about City Connects’ direct positive impact on school dropout. In grades 9 through 12, students who attended City Connects elementary schools beginning in kindergarten are significantly less likely to drop out of high school than students never in City Connects. The difference translates to about 50% lower odds of dropping out of high school!

We also feature our positive impact Massachusetts statewide Math test (MCAS) scores, on which City Connects students surpass their peers never in City Connects and approach the state average.

You can find more information on our results and additional City Connects publications on our website.

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:

MCAS Scores and the Achievement Gap

The 2011 MCAS scores were released last week (check out our roundup of the news). The Boston Globe published its own review of the results yesterday in which they examined the scores by income level. The article, “MCAS scores appear stuck in income gap,” found that “schools with substantial numbers of low-income students are consistently failing to meet academic benchmarks under the No Child Left Behind law, with more than 60 percent falling short of standards in English, and math, and lagging well behind schools with wealthier students.”

The article cited language barriers, lack of after-school care, homelessness, and mobility as “out-of-school” factors affecting low-income students. These are exactly the types of supports and services to which our School Site Coordinators connect students and families, in addition to enrichment opportunities like music, art, and athletic programs. We believe that this comprehensive method of delivering student support makes students better able to learn and thrive in school.

Our results show that City Connects (CCNX) students outperform their Boston Public School (BPS) peers on MCAS English Language Arts and Math, even after they leave a City Connects school and go on to middle school. The graphs below shows MCAS ELA results using 2009-10 data; City Connects students approach the state average by grade 8. To give you an idea of low-income status, 82% of our City Connects students in 2009-10 were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. We think this is strong evidence that student support is a powerful mechanism that can help narrow the achievement gap.