Photo by Julie Dermansky

A $1-million grant from The MassMutual Foundation, Inc., to the Springfield Public Schools (SPS) will underwrite the expansion of the Boston College-based City Connects program into eight additional elementary schools, increasing the total to 23 SPS sites serving as additional 2,700 students, announced City Connects' Executive Director Mary Walsh, the Daniel E. Kearns Professor of Urban Education & Innovative Leadership at Boston College.

Founded in 2001 and now operating in over 90 public, charter, and Catholic schools in five states, City Connects provides support for students based on their individual needs by addressing out-of-school challenges that affect student success, and leverages the services and resources of community agencies.

City Connects was launched in five Springfield schools in 2011-12, and by 2017, it served over 5,000 students in 15 schools. Research revealed that after three years of implementation in previously underperforming schools, there was no longer a gap in test scores between students in those schools and students in the rest of the district.  Additionally, two of Springfield's City Connects schools advanced to Level 1, the highest ranking in the state's education department accountability system; the other three schools progressed to Level 3.    

"We are indebted to MassMutual for their generosity and commitment to Springfield, its schools and their students," said Walsh.  "The foundation clearly understood that to close the opportunity and achievement gaps, and to improve educational outcomes, the needs of the whole child must be addressed. We look forward to this expanded partnership with the Springfield Public Schools."

Over a decade of research has demonstrated that students who are engaged with City Connects in elementary school significantly out-perform comparable peers in measures of academic achievement and life prospects, including higher statewide test scores, lower chronic absenteeism, and half the high school dropout rate.  

"The City Connects program has already garnered great results in our schools; this investment will expand the program's reach, bringing positive change for even more students and families," said Dennis Duquette, head of MassMutual community responsibility and president of the MassMutual Foundation. "Education is a key lever in achieving financial security later in life, and the MassMutual Foundation is committed to ensuring that students have access to the support system and resources needed to learn and thrive in school."

Founded in 1851, the Springfield, Mass.-based Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company -- with $29.6 billion in revenue in 2016 -- is one of the largest businesses based in the Bay State.

“We are very grateful for the extremely generous support the MassMutual Foundation is providing our school district to help us better serve the whole child,” said Superintendent of Springfield Public Schools Daniel Warwick. “The City Connects program has yielded measurable positive results and this funding allows us to expand a program with a proven track record to reach more students. This kind of corporate citizenry has a value that cannot be overstated and we are elated about what this means for our students and families.”

Phil Gloudemans | University Communications