Connecting the Dots
Out-of-school factors including poverty, mobility, and violence contribute to student learning and development where need often influences negative outcome gaps over time (Coalition for Community Schools, 2018; Mattison & Aber, 2007; Moore, 2014; Moore & Emig, 2014). A subset of students face these and additional challenges with emotional disturbance (ED). The ED designation is a strong predictor of poorer outcomes even with special education practice in place (de Voursney & Huang, 2016; IDEA, 2004; Lewis et al., 2017; Moore et al., 2017; Olivier et al., 2018). These findings heighten calls to reform support systems around students, especially those students facing the most need. Integrated Student Supports (ISS) emerged as a systemic approach to comprehensively service in and out-of-school needs (Moore, 2014; Moore & Emig, 2014; Lee-St. John et al., 2018; Moore et al., 2017). However, limited research exists on the impact of tandem ISS services on special education accommodation for students with ED. This study focused on an approach to ISS, City Connects, on academic and behavior outcomes for students with ED impairment. City Connects offers tailored support for the whole child and implementation has resulted in positive outcomes (City Connects, 2010, 2012, 2016, 2018, 2020; Walsh et al., 2014). The study had two aims. First, to determine if students with ED designation (N=4,427) scored lower on academic and thriving outcomes than students never in special education (N=14,475). The second was to assess if ever participating in City Connects (N=5,067) moderated the relationship between ED impairment and outcomes. School-fixed effects regressions assessed these aims. Results revealed that students with ED scored significantly lower across all outcomes. Analyses for the second study aim were variable. Math scores were significantly higher for City Connects students than children without these supports. Writing and MCAS-ELA scores did not significantly differ between the two groups. Reading and behavior marks were significantly lower for City Connects students. The predicted moderation of City Connects only met significance for reading scores. Findings partially support hypotheses and promote greater attention to investigations of subsets of students and the mechanisms behind the response to City Connects and ISS more broadly.