The Best Resources For Learning About Community Schools

Check out my Ed Week column, Community Schools ‘Transform the Lives of Children & Families’

I’ve published many posts on Community Schools, which are schools that make a point of working with the local community and resources and facilities. I’m a big supporter of them. However, as I’ve written in some of my posts, I think many miss opportunities to be more successful by not engaging parents in the process of developing them.

Often, schools seem to only look at parents as “clients” to be served, and not as “partners” and “co-creators.”

Community schools are great. I just wonder how much better they could be be if parents were more participants in making decisions about them and not just viewed as a people needing help.

You can see all my “The Best…” lists related to parent engagement here.

Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning About Community Schools:

Here’s an excerpt from a study that found the same problem related to lack of parent engagement that I’ve mentioned earlier:

This study investigated the effectiveness of a community school’s strategy in influencing the motivators of parental involvement. Through a mixed-method, case-study investigation of a long-established community school in New York City, the study found inconclusive evidence that community school operations positively influenced the motivations of parents to involve themselves in their child’s education. In particular, the site found a low level of parent participation, lack of efficacious mastery experiences and incidents of social persuasion, lack of a sense of collective leadership among parents and staff, and a low level of relational trust between parents and the school organization. Nevertheless, enough positive evidence was collected to suggest that community school operations remain promising strategies capable of positively influencing parents to become more involved in their children’s education. The lack of significant increases in parent motivation may be due to the lack of fidelity to which the site implemented its own community school model, the difficulties of sustaining reform over several decades in an impoverished urban setting, and the priorities of the New York City Department of Education.

School’s a Community Effort in Indiana District is another excellent article by Mary Ann Zehr at Education Week. I exchanged emails with  about that issue of parent engagement, and she graciously gave me permission to publish it here:

First, here was my question to her:

I really liked your community schools story , and am a big advocate of them. However, one of the missed opportunities I have seen with many is that the school staff often decide what they should offer and how, with very little input from parents themselves. I’m going to point readers of my parents blog to your story, but I was wondering if you had any sense of if parents were and are involved in the decision to be more of a community school and how the programs are run?

Here is her response:

I don’t feel qualified to say how much input parents are giving into how the community schools should be run because that wasn’t the focus of my reporting. At Lincoln School, I attended a morning “coffee” hosted by the school for parents. Several parents and grandparents told me they regularly attend such events. They expressed appreciation for input they’d received about nutrition through that venue. At the “coffee”, several community people gave presentations for programs the attendees can get involved in, such as a program to support grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. The meeting was facilitated by a parent coordinator employed by Lincoln School; she seemed to have a good relationship with the parents. The parent coordinator has used the parents’ ideas for speakers and topics at the meetings. I didn’t ask how parents were involved in the various structures, such as the School Community Council, that are in charge of the school-community connections.

Here are two useful articles on community schools:

One is titled Community Schools: Reform’s Lesser-Known Frontier and appeared in Education Week.

The other is A Community School Makes the Grade: Principal Eileen Santiago Tells Us How, and is from one of my favorite blogs, Public School Insights.

Oakland Schools Struggle, but Emeryville May Point a Way Up is the headline of a New York Times article  about an effort to connect schools with social service agencies.

“The Roles Of Parent & Community Engagement In Student Success: Work Works In Illinois” is a new report published by advocates of Community Schools. Even though it’s focused on Illinois, a lot of the info can be applied anywhere.

Lightening the Load: A Look at Four Ways that Community Schools Can Support Effective Teaching is a new report from The Center For American Progress.

Oregon Community Schools Model Shows Staying Power is an article from Education Week.

Community schools recognize the vital role of full-service partnerships is a recent post from Thoughts On Public Education, and gives a pretty good report on recent developments in developing community schools.

Community School Model Seen as Valuable to Rural Areas is an interesting article over at Education Week.

“Community Schools: Aligning Local Resources” is a brand-new report that has come out, and is described by Public Education NewsBlast this way:

A new brief from the Partnership for Community Schools describes how local government agencies can partner with schools to align existing resources, how these partnerships can be truly effective, and how to pay for them. Through a coordinated delivery system, a community school offers more effective programs and services than any partner could offer on its own. The brief profiles five efforts in California that illustrate the critical role of coordination and intentional collaboration between partners.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Education Secretary Duncan spoke at a conference  designed to support the creation of more “community schools” in the United States. A report on community schools was released at the conference.

Partnerships for Learning: Community Support for Youth Success is a new report from The Harvard Family Research Project.

Here’s how they describe it:

There is strong evidence that, when schools partner with families and community-based organizations, these partnerships for learning improve children’s development and school success. They provide a seamless web of supports designed to ensure positive learning experiences for children and youth.

In this paper, we draw on the experiences of national organizations and a set of community schools that have built these learning partnerships, and examine seven key elements that we find to be essential in building them. Our paper serves as a guide to school districts and their partners as they consider whether and how to implement a partnerships for learning model. It also informs those who have already established these partnerships and wish to reflect on how to maximize partnership—and student—success.

“Community & Family Engagement: Principals What Works” is a report from The Coalition For Community Schools, and looks useful.

Providence’s Bailey Elementary School combines education, community outreach is the headline of an article  about community schools in Rhode Island. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“In our urban districts, we know that when kids come to school, they come with a whole lot of baggage,” said Rebecca Boxx, program director at Dorcas Place, an adult literacy center in Providence. “The educational system can’t handle that on its own. This is an effort to unite community partners and school districts behind one targeted goal: to increase academic achievement by providing family support.”

Last week, Bailey was one of seven schools statewide (and the only Providence public school) to come off the state Department of Education’s sanction list — those schools that have failed to make adequate yearly progress.

Brady and others are convinced that the “wraparound” social services available at Bailey helped the school meet more than 20 academic targets two years in a row.

School leaders say Oakland’s community school movement will continue, even without Tony Smith is a good article from Ed Source about ambitious plans for community schools in Oakland.

“One School, One Year: A Look Inside Oyler School” is a special NPR Markeplace report on a community school in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Linking home and classroom, Oakland bets on community schools is a fairly in-depth report on…community schools in Oakland, California, and is published by the Hechinger Report.

Community Schools: A Model for the Middle Grades is an article in Education Week that’s worth a look.

Here’s a pretty interesting piece in the Huffington Post about community schools in Cincinnati.

Here’s an excerpt:

A little more than a decade ago, voters passed a bond levy making possible the rebuilding or renovating of every public school in the district. The promise to taxpayers was that the facilities would be much more than just traditional academic settings during traditional school hours. Schools, typically dormant after-hours and on weekends, would be central to each neighborhood’s revitalization.

Indeed, these buildings have grown into around-the-clock community centers: populated by partnerships providing health care, tutoring, social services, recreational opportunities, and other resources for students and their families, and all residents of the surrounding neighborhood.

Syracuse: A Citywide Education Experiment is a Prezi presentation (embedded below) by Sarah Sparks from Education Week. It’s on a pretty interesting effort in…Syracuse. It expands on the idea of community schools, and sounds great. I still have the same concern that I have with most community schools, however — that families might be viewed more as clients instead of partners.

Candidates See Cincinnati as Model for New York Schools is the headline of an article in The New York Times.

Here’s an excerpt:

Despite its relatively small size, Cincinnati, with roughly 30,000 students, has become a lodestar for big-city school systems across the country. Superintendents and union leaders looking for an alternative to a high-stakes, data-driven movement in education have showered the community schools model with praise, noting that it has expanded access to health care and social services, tackling problems thought to be causes of academic failure.

Community Schools: A Worthwhile Investment provides a very good overview of community schools. It appears in Education Week.

Here’s an excerpt:

Research has made it clear that instructional improvements can be successful only when they are combined with family and community engagement and genuine efforts to improve the school’s climate for learning—in other words, when resources are organized for student success by creating community schools. Now there is growing proof that not only does this reform strategy boost outcomes for children, but that it also provides a significant social return on investment.

Why community schools are a no-brainer is a useful post over at Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post blog.

Community schools gaining traction under state’s new funding formula is an article in Ed Source about the growth of community schools in California. It’s a pretty thorough article, and includes a number of useful links.

Research Review Gives Thumbs Up to Community Schools Approach the headline of a post at Education Week.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the wake of newly elected New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledge to open 100 community schools, a report released Tuesday finds promise in this type of educational intervention. The study, supported in part with a grant from an organization founded by de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, concludes that research and theory support the concept of community schools that seek to boost academic performance by offering mentoring, counseling, healthcare, and other wraparound services that extend well beyond the classroom.

The report itself, unfortunately, looks very little — if at all — at the importance of parents being involved in developing plans on how community schools can be developed. Of course, that’s a shortcoming of most, though not all, community school programs.

Nonprofit and for-profit partners help Cincinnati transform its failing schools is from Ed Source, and provides an excellent overview of the efforts to create community schools in that city.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveils state’s ‘community schools’ program at Hillcrest School in Peekskill is headline of a short article and video at a New York newspaper’s site.

It’s part of a statewide program
providing $500,000 grants to school to create community schools and was supported by teachers unions.

Community Schools Will Succeed If Parents Are Engaged is the headline of an article written by a parent leader discussing the planned opening of 100 community schools in New York City.

He echoes the concerns I’ve expressed often times about the lack of parent engagement in many community schools.

Here’s an excerpt (the author begins by talking about the community school his children now attend):

The key to the success of this school, which should be applied to each of the mayor’s 100 community schools, is strong parent engagement from the beginning in both design and evaluation. Unlike at PS 73, parents at New Settlement are treated as full partners. The doors are open, there is mutual trust among teachers, administrators, and parents, and constant outreach is made to parents to get us involved.

In the mayor’s initiative, each school will receive a full-time resource coordinator. They will recruit partnerships and resources for the school, working with the principal and school community to create a well-designed and effective community school. I strongly believe that this is a job for people with passion—for individuals who truly believe transforming education is possible.

The engagement of parents must be a large part of measuring the success of these resource coordinators. They must meet parents where they are, and reach out especially to parents who aren’t involved in the school through home visits, phone calls, community meetings, whatever it takes. They should listen to parents’ ideas, their anxieties and their vision. Parents should be offered clear pathways to become leaders in the school and the community.

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. have announced they are introducing a Congressional bill that would generate funds to support the development of community schools.

More Schools Open Their Doors to the Whole Community is a Wall Street Journal article about…community schools.

Here’s an excerpt:

WYOMING, Mich.—On a recent weekday here, a steady stream of people dropped by one central location for food stamps, family counseling and job ideas—their local school.

While instruction has ended for the summer, these classrooms remain open as part of a wider trend around the country of “community schools,” where public and private groups bring services closer to students and residents year round and, in some cases, help boost student performance.

With backing at local, state and federal levels, the decades-old idea for improving schools and neighborhoods is gaining ground despite some funding uncertainties and doubts about community schools’ success.

The largest coordinator of such programs, Communities in Schools, saw a 6% increase in its reach in the 2012-13 school year, covering schools with a total of more than 1.3 million students in 26 states.

You can read more about it at:

Bipartisan House Bill Would Boost Community Schools at Ed Week

Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Expand Community Schools at the Coalition For Community Schools.

How to Get Kids to Class: To Keep Poor Kids in School, Provide Social Services is the headline of an op-ed in The New York Times by the president of Communities in Schools.

Here’s the last paragraph:

Putting social workers in schools is a low-cost way of avoiding bigger problems down the road, analogous to having a social worker in a hospital emergency room. It’s a common-sense solution that will still require a measure of political courage, something that all too often has itself been chronically absent.

“Community Engagement: The Secret Ingredient”

New York City Mayor Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a huge increase in the number of Community Schools in the city.

You can read about his announcement in these two articles:

De Blasio Unveils New Plans for Troubled Schools in New York

Read Mayor Bill de Blasio’s speech outlining a $150M plan for school improvement is from Chalkbeat.

A major expansion of community schools is being attacked in New York City. You can read what its defenders are saying in an article headlined Buery, Fariña defend community schools’ academics.

Here’s an excerpt:

Deputy mayor Richard Buery on Monday defended the community school model’s efficacy in improving student academic outcomes after the administration announced partnerships between social services agencies and 45 new community schools.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio has made community schools a central part of his education agenda, critics have said there is mixed research on whether the community school model actually improves academic achievement in low-income neighborhoods.

During a press conference after the announcement, Buery cited studies showing academic gains for community schools in Boston and Tulsa, Oklahoma. In Tulsa, for example, some community schools outperformed their peers in math by 32 points and in English by 19 points on state exams, according to a Department of Education press release.

“Just calling it a community school and bringing in resources by itself does not, of course, guarantee increased academic achievement,” Buery said. “What community schools are all about is increasing the capacity for learning,” he added, stressing a familiar theme for community schools supporters.

Community Schools Advocates Push for ‘Whole Child’ Focus in ESEA Update is a post from Education Week.

Here’s how it begins:

The Coalition for Community Schools has joined the ranks of stakeholders offering members of Congress their laundry list of dos and don’ts for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law.

On Monday morning, the coalition sent a letter to Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate education committee, to emphasize the important role school-community partnerships should play in the overhaul of the federal education law.

AFT teacher brings community schools message to Congress is a post at the American Federation of Teachers site.

Here’s how it begins:

Stressing that the majority of kids in American public schools now live in poverty, a Baltimore teacher and AFT member urged Congress on Feb. 5 to battle that challenge through a redesigned Elementary and Secondary Education Act—one that helps schools and students overcome poverty’s deepest obstacles by supporting proven strategies like community schools.

The Renewal-School Gamble is from The Atlantic.

Community Schools: What We Know and What We Need to Know

Becoming a Community School: A Study of Oakland Unified School District Community School Implementation, 2015-2016 is a report from Stanford.

‘Community Schools’ See Revival in Time of Heightened Need is from US News.

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