Case Study

An Actionable Data System Approach at City Connects

By Yan Leigh, Claire Foley, and Mary Walsh
February 2022
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Across America, children in high-poverty urban schools face out-of-school challenges that impede their success in the classroom and life. Contexts beyond the school are critical, accounting for up to two-thirds of the variance in student achievement. City Connects emerged in response to the need for a systemic approach to addressing out-of-school factors. Its mission is to help students—academically, socially, emotionally, and physically—by connecting each child to a tailored set of prevention, intervention, and enrichment services in the school and community. 

This case study describes the development and launch of a proprietary software system that supports several types of users who play roles in the delivery of City Connects in schools. This system, called MyConnects, provides a way to capture actionable information for practitioners implementing City Connects and those seeking to understand its impact. It was designed and developed using a process that engaged front-line practitioners such as counselors and social workers implementing City Connects, teachers and principals, community partners, and researchers, as well as software specialists and data security experts.

In the City Connects practice, a school-based Coordinator works with every teacher in the school every year to review the strengths and needs of every student across developmental domains (academic, social/emotional/behavioral, health, family). Based on this review, an individualized plan of supports and enrichments is drafted and documented in MyConnects. Information about the student, their family, and a wide range of community-based service providers and school services populates dashboards and reports that enable stakeholders to take action:

  • A Coordinator uses information about student strengths and interests to find a community partner that offers a relevant service, enabling a referral that is a good fit for the student
  • A teacher sees that several students in their class share a need for support in a behavioral area and chooses a classroom management approach suited to that need
  • A principal refers to a student’s plan to inform a conversation with their family about their strengths, needs, interests, and supports
  • A family selects a particular after-school program for a student that considers teacher observations captured in the MyConnects student plan
  • A researcher sees variation in the number of school partnerships across a city and is inspired to investigate the differences

This case study demonstrates how collaboration between scholars and practitioners can leverage reliable data and information and enrich research and practice.