What is a Community School?
Using schools as the hub, community schools integrate academic, health and social services to offer a range of supports and opportunities that lead to improved student learning, stronger families, and healthier communities. These schools are open to students, families, and community organizations before, during, and after school, and throughout the year.
Community schools contain an array of supports from community partners that give students and families the tools they need to learn and grow. Following a collective impact model approach, community school services are coordinated by a school or community agency employee, responsive to school and community priorities, and aligned to the curriculum.
Why Community Schools?
Community Schools are a comprehensive approach to education that builds the academic, social, and emotional competencies of children and their families. Community schools leverage resources beyond traditional education funding and can reduce demands on school budgets and school staff. And, community schools build social capital by establishing networks and relationships that support learning and community involvement.
Evaluations of community schools from sites around the country have demonstrated improved academic performance, improved student and teacher attendance, improved graduation rates, improved school climate, improved student behavior, and increased parent involvement. The National Education Policy Center and Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education recently published a research brief that summarizes the compelling research that community school programs have on improving student outcomes and strengthening families (12/15). Please see attached: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/community-schools-as-an-effective-strategy-for-reform
Furthermore, a recent independent analysis by The Finance Project of two community schools operated by Children’s Aid Society in New York City found a social return on investment ratio of 10.3 to 1.0 at one school and 14.8 to 1.0 at the second school. This means that for every $1 invested, the community school delivered a return of $10.30 and $14.80 in social value.
What happens in a Community School?
Community schools offer whole-child, two-generation wraparound supports for students and families, including:
- Student-centered instruction
- Early childhood education
- Out-of-School Time Enrichment Programming
- Supplemental academic supports
- Health & Wellness Services
- Adult Education (e.g. ESL, GED)
- Workforce Training Programs
- Financial Literacy & Coaching
- Regular, Meaningful Family Engagement Activities
- Case Management and Referrals to Social Services
- Housing and Employment Assistance
While community school models look different across the country, the following six conditions unite all initiatives:
- Early childhood development programs are available to nurture growth and development.
- The school offers a core instructional program delivered by qualified teachers; instruction is organized around a challenging curriculum anchored by high standards and expectations for students.
- Students are motivated and engaged in learning in both school and community settings before, during, and after school and in the summer.
- The basic physical, mental, and emotional health needs of young people and their families are recognized and addressed.
- Parents, families, and school staff demonstrate mutual respect and engage in effective collaboration.
- Community engagement, together with school efforts, promotes a school climate that is safe, supportive, and respectful and that connects students to a broader learning community.