What is a Community School?

BUILDERS CLUBA community school is a partnership between the school, families, and community partners for the common goal of improving the academic success of our young people.

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:

  • parents mingle at a Cranston Family Center eventStudent-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:

  1. Early childhood development programs are available to nurture growth and development.
  2. 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.
  3. Students are motivated and engaged in learning in both school and community settings before, during, and after school and in the summer.
  4. The basic physical, mental, and emotional health needs of young people and their families are recognized and addressed.
  5. Parents, families, and school staff demonstrate mutual respect and engage in effective collaboration.
  6. 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. 

Reading Room

April 1, 2017
Community schools are public schools in The New York Times

February 7, 2017
Syracuse, NY seeks alternative to punishment culture at schools in The Crime Report (.org)

January 11, 2017
Improved communications in Milwaukee community schools on Wisconsin Public radio (www.wpr.com)

November 7, 2016
Community schools formally added to Baltimore schools portfolio in The Baltimore Sun

October 29, 2016
Nudges that help struggling students succeed in The New York Times

September 29, 2016
The 4 traits that put kids at risk for addiction in The New York Times

Fall 2016
Community schools help afterschool flourish in Afterschool Today

August 7, 2016
An effective but exhausting alternative to high school suspensions in The New York Times Magazine

August 22, 2016
Erie set to launch community school pilot program in GoErie.com

August 16, 2016
Community schools partnership works to embrace Milwaukee's children in On Milwaukee

August 9, 2016
NEA publishes article in support of community schools in NEA Today

August 6, 2016
David Kirp on school health services and NY community schools in The New York Times

August 2, 2016
Dallas community schools and politics in The Dallas Observer

July 2016
How marginalized families are pushed out of PTAs in The Atlantic

July 13, 2016
Pittsburgh School Board to vote on 'community schools' approach in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

June 26, 2016
Kids Count reports RI ranks 27th in child well-being in Providence Business Journal

June 24, 2016
Kids Count reports more RI kids in poverty but fewer uninsured in RI NPR

June 23, 2016
How community schools can beat summer learning loss in SFGate

June 6, 2016
When half of the pupils are homeless, schools serve important role in The New York Times

May 22, 2016
The lifetime benefits of early childhood parental supports and home visits in The New York Times

May 18, 2016
Community schools in NY find creative ways to boost attendance in DNAinfo

May 4, 2016
"Place-based" work helps students in rural Kentucky in HomeRoom: The Official Blog of the US Department of Education

April 29, 2016
Community schools seen as way out for some schools in NY state receivership in Syracuse.com

April 13, 2016
Philadelphia officials discuss April’s national community schools conference in Albuquerque: momentum clearly gaining in Philadelphia Public Schools "The Notebook"

April 4, 2016
Albuquerque finds success with its 20 community schools in The Albuquerque Journal

March 23, 2016
Philadelphia mayor plans to establish 25 community schools over next four years in Philly.com

March 11, 2016
The Director of the Coalition for Community Schools, Martin Blank, comments on the potential impact of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in The Washington Post

March 10, 2016
The Coalition for Community Schools publishes its latest research paper, “Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools”

March 1, 2016
New York State sets $250 million funding goal for community schools

February 22, 2016
Two superintendents discuss community school successes and lessons

February 11, 2016
David Denby of The New Yorker urges an increase in health and social services to improve student outcomes

Map of Rhode Island’s Community Schools