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.

New partnership with the Children’s Aid Society brings City Connects to New York City

Children's Aid SocietyWe are pleased to announce that we have partnered with the Children’s Aid Society of New York City to pilot the delivery of optimized student support to the C. S. 61 Francisco Oller elementary school, a community school in the Morrisania neighborhood of the South Bronx, beginning in January 2014.

“We are pleased to be partnering with the Children’s Aid Society, an organization that has such deep experience serving the children and families of New York City,” says Mary E. Walsh, Ph.D., Executive Director of City Connects and the Kearns Professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. “Research shows that factors outside of school like hunger, homelessness, or a lack of access to enrichment activities are responsible for two-thirds of the achievement gap, and these factors are especially persistent and challenging for students living in poverty. Our collaboration will allow us to address these factors and help Morrisania students come to school ready to learn and thrive.”

For more information:

Now Playing: New “Mini-documentary” about City Connects

We are pleased to debut a new “mini-documentary” about City Connects. You’ll hear first-hand from school administrators, community partners, and our staff about how City Connects’ system of addressing students’ unique strengths and needs positively impacts schools and student achievement.

The video features thre City Connects schools in Boston (the Eliot K-8, Dever-McCormack, and Quincy Elementary) as well as our partners Big Brothers Big Sister of Mass. Bay, UMass-Boston, and the Red Oak After-school Program of the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center.

If you are interested in learning more or partnering with City Connects–as a district, school, or community partner–we’d love to hear from you! Send us an email.

Support All Students to Close the Achievement Gap

Over on ASCD‘s “The Whole Child” blog, City Connects Executive Director Mary Walsh has a guest blog post about how schools can counter the impact of poverty on students. In “Support All Students to Close the Achievement Gap,” she writes:

How can schools, with their limited resources, address these barriers to learning? Traditionally, the approach has been through “student support,” a catch-all phrase whose definition varies from school to school and district to district. Typically, it encompasses the role of counselors. Often, only the most vulnerable and at-risk students receive the lion’s share of the attention. Student support can be approached differently, in a way that dramatically enhances its effectiveness. It works best when delivered in a comprehensive, systematic approach to each and every student in a school.

For more information:

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:

 

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.

City Connects Year in Review: Ohio

With the support of the Mathile Family Foundation, City Connects has been working with two Catholic schools in Dayton, Ohio: Our Lady of the Rosary (K-8) and Chaminade Julienne (9-12). Some highlights of the past year include:

  • Across both schools, in academic year 2011-2012, City Connects partnered with 75 community agencies. Between school- and community-based services, School Site Coordinators arranged for more than 2,300 services and enrichment opportunities for students!
  • City Connects is in its third year of a collaboration with Chaminade Julienne to adapt and pilot the City Connects model of student support at the high school level. This adaptation remains true to the City Connects core components while promoting a cutting-edge approach for college readiness and success; initial results are encouraging.
  • Satisfaction survey results show that 88% of teachers (K-12) report that they are satisfied with City Connects and 92% would recommend City Connects to a colleague.
  •  2012 brought some exciting new findings at the elementary level in the area of social competency. Female students perceive a higher level of competency on reading and less victimization this year as compared to last year.  Students in upper grades indicated a trend of less bullying than in past years.

Looking forward to 2013:

  • City Connects has been invited to expand to a K-12 Catholic school campus in Springfield, Ohio, and will be starting a planning phase beginning in January 2013.
  • Another exciting pilot effort: City Connects will be collaborating with a community college in Dayton to adapt the City Connects model of optimized student support at the community college level.

For more information:

  • See our Year in Review post for Boston here.

City Connects Year in Review: Boston

This week on the blog we’ll be looking at the year in review across our 45 sites in three geographic areas: Boston (public and Catholic schools), Springfield (MA), and Ohio.

City Connects is currently implemented in 17 Boston Public Schools, our original site. Here are some BPS highlights:

  • For the 2012-12 school year, City Connects partnered with its first in-district charter school, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School, and its first public high school, the Quincy Upper School.
  • Across Boston Public Schools, in the 2011-12 school year, City Connects partnered with 250 community agencies to arrange more than 30,000 services and enrichment activities for students.
  • 2012 brought some exciting new findings on the long-term benefits of City Connects for students after they have a City Connects elementary school, including significantly lower rates of chronic absenteeism in middle school and significantly lower rates of school dropout after the age of 16.
  • Results of our 2012 teacher survey in Boston were exceptionally positive, with 95% of teachers reporting satisfaction with City Connects and 95% reporting that they would recommend City Connects to a teacher in another school.
  • City Connects’ New Balance Foundation Health & Wellness curriculum continues to show positive results for children across all four units: nutrition, physical activity, social/emotional wellbeing, and healthy choices.

City Connects in Catholic Schools (CCCS) is currently active in 17 schools in the greater Boston area, as well as one freestanding Early Childcare center. Highlights from CCCS include:

  • In the 2011-12 school year, CCCS  linked students to more than 11,000 services and enrichment activities provided by 100 community agencies.
  • This year, CCCS partnered with a freestanding Early Childcare center for the first time, Catholic Charities’ Nazareth Child Care Center in Jamaica Plain. An Early Childhood adaptation of City Connects is being piloted at this center.
  • Analysis of CCCS’s work with Early Childhood populations (ages 3-7)  suggests that students in Early Childhood programs in City Connects schools show significantly more growth in school readiness over a 3-year period than students in comparison schools.

Check back tomorrow for more “Year in Review” updates!