Understanding Why City Connects Works

City Connects

We’ve known that students who participate in City Connects during elementary school do well on middle school assessments of academic achievement. However, we know less about why that’s true.

What leads to the academic gains that City Connects provides?

New research is shedding light on this question by looking at the impact of three things: how elementary school academic skills, elementary school thriving skills, and the amount of time spent in City Connects affect academic achievement.

These research findings will be presented tomorrow at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness.

One of the research papers that will be presented asks whether an additional year of City Connects boosts students’ academic outcomes. This paper will be presented by Diego Luna Bazaldua, a post-doctoral researcher who is part of an independent evaluation team of faculty and researchers within the Center for Optimized Student Support at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education.

Luna Bazaldua says this research is “as close as you can get to a real experiment.” That’s important since researchers haven’t run randomized trials on City Connects because we deliver the intervention to every child in a school. Continue reading

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

New article about City Connects’ work in Springfield, Ohio

Springfield News-SunThe Springfield (OH) News-Sun recently published an article about Catholic Central, a pre-k to grade 12 campus that is in its second year of implementing City Connects across all grades. In the article, “Catholic Central a flagship of national student support program,” Catholic Central Principal and CEO Pete Dunlap said:

“Every student faces barriers and obstacles, and [City Connects] has been great in that it supports every student with a long-term focus. If we have a system like this in place that prevents or gets over these barriers, it helps.”

City Connects works with six schools in Ohio–check out our partner public/charter and private schools in Dayton and Springfield.

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!

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.

“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: