National Civic League Honors New Britain and Nine Other Communities as 2016 All-America City Award Winners

National Civic League Honors New Britain and Nine Other Communities as 2016 All-America City Award Winners

The City of New Britain has been honored by the National Civic League (NCL), along with nine other communities across the nation, as winners of the NCL 2016 All-America City Awards, an annual honor given each year to towns, cities, counties, tribes, neighborhoods and metropolitan regions for outstanding civic accomplishments.

The overall criteria for winning an All-America City Award include impact, inclusiveness, public engagement and the use of collaborative problem-solving strategies linking the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

This year, the All-America Awards program highlighted community efforts to "ensure that all our children are healthy and successful in school and life." The finalist communities addressed topics such as: school attendance, racial equity, health and well-being (of children, parents and community), neighborhood safety, poverty, nutrition, affordable housing, and healthy natural environments.

"New Britain and the other All-America cities for 2016 are doing amazing work to engage their communities in helping to assure the well-being of young people," said Doug Linkhart, President of the National Civic League. "We're constantly impressed by their innovation and dedication in bringing together groups and individuals together to address critical issues such as the health and educational success. While there are certainly many other successful community engagement efforts to improve opportunities for young people, All-America City winners clearly rise to the top."

“This is another major feather in New Britain’s cap and representative of so many wonderful things happening here in our community,” said Mayor Erin Stewart of New Britain.

See below for the other cities, in addition to New Britain, that were named All-America City Award winners for 2016.

Here is the link to the official website: http://www.nationalcivicleague.org/

New Brtiain honored three ways back to top

New Britain was honored for (1) its academic summer enrichment experience; (2) its work fighting chronic absenteeism; and (3) its efforts to reduce childhood obesity.

Summer Enrichment Experience

The New Britain Summer Enrichment Experience (SEE) combats summer learning loss by combining traditional summer school classroom time with traditional extended day enrichment programming offered by community-based organizations.

Working in collaboration, principals, teachers, and community providers developed an innovative and integrated curriculum that allowed students to make connections between lessons in the classroom and real world experiences.

With significant gains in reading, writing, and math for students in the program in 2011, 2012 and 2013, the summer program expanded in 2014 to three district elementary schools serving more than 600 students. Spots are available on a first come, first serve basis to students who scored in the lowest 20th percentile on standardized tests.

To encourage early registration, the Family Education Services Department of the district calls parents of eligible children to provide more information and answer questions to promote the child’s participation and engage parents in their native languages. Class sizes are restricted to no more than 15 students. Students and parents are also able to choose age-appropriate enrichment opportunities for the afternoon including theater arts, sports and recreation, STEM, and martial arts. Through its PowerSchool Tracking system, the district monitors SEE students’ attendance, grades, and standardized test scores during the school year to help ensure the program’s success.

Fighting Chronic Absenteeism

In December of 2011, the Consolidated School District of New Britain looked at the rate of chronic absenteeism in its schools and was troubled to learn that nearly one-third of students attended school less than 90 percent of the time – the worst in the state. During the 2012-2013 school year, the district rolled out their Kindergarten Counts pilot initiative to begin addressing the absenteeism issues.

The 2013-2014 school year data showed the kindergarten chronic absenteeism rate at 13 percent, a 42 percent reduction in only one year. The critical part of the Kindergarten Counts program was employing two highly trained family intervention specialists who engaged parents through phone calls, home visits, and referrals, to help set the family up for success around their child’s attendance. In the last school year the rate of kindergarten chronic absenteeism rebounded in the district.

The most critical driver of this was a new district transportation policy discontinuing bussing for elementary students living within a mile of their school. Through analysis of the data, district officials demonstrated that 60 percent of the kindergarten walkers at one school were chronically absent, and then were able to advocate adjusting the bussing policy to within a half mile this year.

The district also continues the successful “Walking School Bus” that not only addresses safety concerns, but allows families and students to connect and engage with each other, and the school. Another key strategy for fighting chronic absenteeism has been training teachers and staff on the importance of having a welcoming environment for tardy students.

Reducing Childhood Obesity

In 2008, the Coalition for New Britain Youth drafted an ambitious plan to combat the rate of obesity and asthma in area youth. Initial research indicated that only 47 percent of 4-year-olds were found to have a healthy body mass index (BMI).

In response, the coalition implemented the Healthy Alternatives for Little Ones (HALO) program for preschoolers in New Britain and by 2012, 61 percent of preschoolers measured at a healthy BMI. Strong data tracking has been a crucial piece of the coalition’s efforts. City public health workers have collaborated with the school district nurses to collect data for the district’s data system, PowerSchool. This tracking system revealed the scope of asthma-related issues for students and its impact on their attendance.

Among elementary school students 29 percent were diagnosed with asthma, a rate that rose to 39 percent among 6th graders. Now, students with poorly-controlled asthma can receive case management services from the school nurse and others to assist with issues such as home-based environmental remediation.

In 2010, a group of teenage girls completed a Photovoice project focused on health and the community in New Britain, the project identified the condition of parks as barrier to healthy living. They presented their project to the city and eventually helped get one park’s vacant pool replaced with a full turf field for youth sports and a family-friendly splash pad.

In 2012, another group completed a Photovoice project around health and their environment in New Britain that lead to the opening a House of Teens (HOT). The girls designed their own space to meet in the afternoon. HOT is a culturally, and age appropriate, center where teens can access both preventive and primary care and the community-based health promotion resources they want, and need.

The other honorees back to top

Here are the others 2016 All-America City Winners:

 

  • Hayward, California
  • Lakewood, Colorado
  • Fall River, Massachusetts
  • Columbia Heights, Minnesota
  • Asheboro, North Carolina
  • Hartsville, South Carolina
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Norfolk, Virginia
  • Brown Deer, Wisconsin

Working with groups such as the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the National Civic League sought to casting a spotlight in 2016 on local examples of innovative and effective community problem-solving, recognizing the broad array of influences on the success of children and the need for all sectors to address those influences.

To be eligible for an All-America City Award, each community had to complete an application demonstrating their efforts and make a presentation to a jury of civic experts focusing on three outstanding examples of collaborative community problem solving. More than 550 communities have won the All-America City Award since the program was launched in 1949.

A 120-year old nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Denver, Colorado, The National Civic League’s mission is accomplished by fostering and sharing promising practices of local government and public engagement and celebrating the progress that can be achieved when people work together. Their core values are: public participation and civic action; diversity and inclusiveness; greater democracy and higher performing governments; and hope and the nurturing of successful communities.