Community schools serve communities, not just students
- As district administrators examine ways to create community schools, they often start with one or two of the neediest schools in the community with school leaders supportive of the idea, and then expand to other schools as community support for the initiatives increase, writes Matt Zalaznick, senior associate editor for District Administration
- His article examines four community schools in Idaho’s Boise School District and in other areas that offer community outreach programs and social services to students and their families in order to improve school attendance rates and improve family factors that influence achievement.
- School districts implement these initiatives in different ways, reflecting the most urgent needs of the community and focusing on the issues that most affect student performance. Funding often comes through grants, local governments, universities, non-profit organizations or private companies.
Teachers who work with students in impoverished schools see all too clearly the struggles students face each day. If students are constantly in survival mode, how are they able to learn? One approach to this issue has been the development of community schools, which focus not only on educating the child, but also on removing some of the barriers that get in the way of learning.
Organizations such as Communities in Schools and the Coalition for Community Schools can help offer strategies to schools who see the need to serving the whole child. Local businesses sometimes get involved as a way to express corporate social responsibility if they come to understand that improved educational outcomes will aid the development of their future talent pipeline. In an ideal world, this willingness to work together would offer wrap around services for students and improve their chances for success in life.
However, overburdened school leaders need to carefully consider whether they are committed to allowing schools to become the conduit for tackling a multitude of social ills such as poverty, crime, hunger and a lack of health care. Successful community schools have coordinators who take the responsibility for managing partnerships off of school leaders. In addition, some school districts have discovered that wrap-around services alone won’t improve student outcomes. In the end, good teaching does. Before school leaders take on the burden of solving every issue that confronts a student, they need to mindful of the small ways they can improve the lives of students by giving them hope and a future. They also need to remember that the best way to break the cycle of poverty for any family is to give the student the best education possible. That should be the priority.
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