Dutchess County, Poughkeepsie City School District Partnering on Innovative Program
Dutchess County Government and the Poughkeepsie City School District have launched an innovative data-tracking system that connects an individualized success plan to each student to address the out-of-school factors that impact learning.
An outcome of their work through the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet, the County and School District are implementing the nationally-renowned City Connects program from the Boston College Lynch School of Education, which empowers coordinators working with teachers and others to ascertain each student’s needs and what resources are available to help that student. The County is funding City Connects as a three-year pilot program, which began in 2021 and is being implemented among the district’s sixth-grade students. The County is assessing the program and hopes to expand it to other school districts over time.
County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “We are grateful to partner with the Poughkeepsie City School District and the Boston College Lynch School of Education on this ambitious endeavor. City Connects aligns with the mission of Dutchess County’s Path to Promise initiative: ensuring every child throughout our community has access to the resources necessary to become successful young adults.”
City Connects Coordinator Jakira Kellogg, a Poughkeepsie High School graduate with a master’s degree in school counseling, is employed by the Poughkeepsie City School District and works with staff at Poughkeepsie Middle School, providing them with support to identify services outside the classroom setting. These services can include after-school enrichment and tutoring programs, and mental health and medical treatment, among others.
During the first six months of the City Connects pilot program, Ms. Kellogg conducted observations of 19 of the 21 district’s sixth-grade classes, noting interactions between students and teachers and entering data into the MyConnects system, which allows the City Connects team to track student progress in the four key areas: academics, social-emotional learning, family and health. Ms. Kellogg will next hold team meetings with the teachers to determine the strengths and needs of each student.
One of the initial observations Ms. Kellogg has highlighted is how students benefit from having teachers consistently checking on them before beginning a lesson. “Asking students question about how they feel and what’s going is very helpful for students. Being consistent with it shows you care,” said Ms. Kellogg.
The County’s “Path to Promise” team has engaged in dialogues with youth, parents, service providers, funders and the public at large to analyze existing programs and develop a universal asset framework and implementation plan to build on what is working, resolve duplications and close any gaps in services and supports.
For instance, Path to Promise’s success will be judged by whether Dutchess County can lower the poverty level, see an increase in graduation rates and reduce the number of youth involved in the justice system. The County is also setting standards for the collection of data across departments to create a more cohesive tracking and monitoring of outcomes; and it will improve information-sharing among providers and funders for the better coordination of services.
City Connects complements this work by providing a systematic way to connect other school and community resources to the right child to ensure no student falls through the cracks. This fine-tuned approach also can reduce paperwork and time, creating an environment where school officials and community organizations can identify and address problems earlier and faster.
“We believe that, over time, City Connects is going to make a significant and positive difference in the lives of children,” said Poughkeepsie City School District Superintendent Dr. Eric Jay Rosser. “We are excited about the prospects of City Connects and believe this model ultimately will be emulated throughout our school district – and beyond.”
Dr. Rosser and City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison formed the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet in February 2020 to develop a shared vision and cradle-to-career path for child growth in the city; Dutchess County is a part of the Cabinet. Across the country, Children’s Cabinets are used by localities to bring together school districts, government agencies, child-serving community organizations and other local stakeholders to improve their ability to collaborate and coordinate youth supports and services.