IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

NY Pilot Project Uses Data to Connect Students to Services

Imported from Boston College, the City Connects program at Poughkeepsie City School District and Dutchess County is tracking student well-being and linking those in need to local support services.

Students learning on tablets.
Less than a year into a three-year pilot program, Poughkeepsie City School District and Dutchess County, N.Y., are using interviews and a data-tracking system to measure out-of-school factors that could impact student grades, then matching those students with local organizations to help them. Officials say the City Connects program, modeled after a program of the same name at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, has shown promise, and they hope to expand it to other districts in the future.

The program is paid for by the Path to Promise initiative, a county effort launched in 2017 that works with local organizations to connect kids aged 10 and under with resources in six “domains”: learning, material basics, safety, family-social relationships, mental health and physical health.

Karmen Smallwood, assistant commissioner for youth services for the Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services and the leader responsible for the City Connects program, said program coordinators interview students, their teachers and parents to obtain information on the aforementioned “domains” to develop Individualized Student Success Plans. That data goes into the MyConnects digital platform, where it can be used to track and analyze individual student, classroom, grade-level and district-wide outcomes, specifically in academics, social-emotional learning, family and health.

She said the goal is to link students to tailored prevention, intervention and enrichment opportunities in their schools and communities. In its basic form, Smallwood said, City Connects is taking resources in the community and linking every student in a particular school building to those resources for their best chance at success. It can also be used to coordinate services among school staff, families and service providers.

Smallwood said in addition to linking kids to services, the program also has a built-in component of accountability and making sure all the players involved are doing their piece to make sure students get the services they need.

She said the program is in all 21 of the district’s sixth-grade classes, and its success after the first year has led the county to consider ways to expand.

“Plans are being developed to extend beyond the third year,” Smallwood told Government Technology. “Other school districts in the county have (already) expressed interest in implementing City Connects within their schools.”

Superintendent Dr. Eric Jay Rosser said in a public statement that the program has garnered attention throughout and beyond Poughkeepsie City School District.

“We believe that, over time, City Connects is going to make a significant and positive difference in the lives of children,” he said.

Smallwood said program coordinators work closely with community-based agencies to make relevant referrals for services, such as after-school enrichment and tutoring programs, and mental health and medical treatment. She said short-term success can be determined by the number and quality of referrals made to relevant community services; and long-term outcomes by improvement on standardized tests, higher report-card scores, lower chronic absenteeism, fewer dropouts, and higher rates of entry and completion of higher education programs.

School counselor and City Connects Coordinator Jakira Kellogg said in a public statement earlier this year that students benefit from teachers who regularly check in on them.

“Asking students questions about how they feel and what’s going on is very helpful for students,” she said. “Being consistent with it shows you care.”

In an interview with Government Technology, Dutchess County Office of Central and Information Services Commissioner Glenn Marchi said the first year of the pilot has shown positive results.

“(The program) with the Poughkeepsie Middle School sixth grade to create individual success plans for students linked to community resources led to increased student success,” he said.

The program runs the county $31,000 per school, per year, Smallwood said. Beyond the student services provided in the program, Smallwood said that the Dutchess County Board of Cooperative Educational Services collaborated with Boston College to conduct a City Connects Professional Development series for local school districts earlier this year.
Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional soccer over his more than 15-year reporting career. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.