- Adopting a community schools policy, paying community school coordinators at the same level as building administrators and providing all school staff members training on what it means to be a community school are a few ways districts can move from individual sites to becoming a district-wide community schools initiative, according to a Center for American Progress report released Wednesday.
- Featuring case studies on the Union Public Schools in Oklahoma, the Oakland Unified School District in California and the Hartford Community Schools in Connecticut, the authors also recommend that districts spend money on integrated data systems that allow educators and leaders from multiple agencies to access information on the students and schools they serve.
- The report suggests that while individual community schools can effectively address students’ academic and non-academic needs, district leadership is needed to identify sustainable funding and remove obstacles that hinder strong partnerships with community agencies. “Working in isolation, schools cannot overcome the effects of concentrated poverty,” the authors write. “The community schools strategy offers districts serving low-income communities a way to overcome structural obstacles that make it more difficult to give children a high-quality education; these include poor access to physical and mental health services as well as to meaningful enrichment opportunities.”
With the community schools approach accepted as a school improvement strategy under the Every Student Succeeds Act, and research showing positive outcomes — such as improved attendance, better access to physical and mental health services, and higher test scores — the number of districts launching and expanding the community schools model continues to increase.
Under the leadership of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, for example, a community schools effort led by the city's Department of Education has spread to almost 230 schools in just a couple of years. And in Chicago, district leaders this month announced a $10 million pilot program for 20 schools to create a “sustainable” community schools initiative in partnership with neighborhood organizations. The district already has several community schools.
The report notes that states can also support the growth of community schools by adopting statewide strategies for expanding the model in high-poverty areas and providing funding for components, such as out-of-school time programs. The authors also recommend that the federal government maintain and increase funding for grant programs, in addition to the Full-Service Community Schools, Promise Neighborhoods and 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs.