Community schools have proven to be an effective improvement strategy for struggling schools.
We want to start by defining what a community school is.
The informal, short version is that a community school is a neighborhood school with benefits.
The detailed definition follows.
This page has four segments:
Synopsis of the Pillars of Community Schools,
Source Articles components contributing to that synopsis,
To more accurately explain what a community school is conceived to be, we have collected various articles and reports on community schools, and compiled their lists of components of successful community schools into a document containing the below synopsis and the individual organization descriptions of their pillars. Read the synopsis below or the expanded document here.
Synopsis of Pillars of Community Schools
The components or pillars of community schools are listed as either four, or six or more depending on the source of the reports. Below is a compilation of the community school components drawn from reports of four major educational organizations as well as Representative Steny Hoyer’s description of a full-service community school. The various components have been placed where they fit under one of the basic four pillars.
A fifth pillar is listed in this synopsis because it contains components that don’t directly fit in the initial four.
1. Integrated student supports
A. Early childhood education and development
B. Primary care, dental care, and mental health services
C. Academic support for student’s pre-K through 12th grade
D. Nutrition services to combat hunger insecurity
E. Financial stability
F. Positive discipline practices, such as restorative justice
2. Expanded learning time and opportunities
A. High-quality early learning programs
B. Youth development and mentoring programs
C. Community service and service learning opportunities
D. Job training and career counseling
3. Family and community engagement
A. Services that help support parents and promote family engagement, family literacy, and parental involvement
B. Access to social service programs for families
C. Schools function as neighborhood hubs. There are educational opportunities for adults, and family members can share their stories and serve as equal partners in promoting students success.
4. Collaborative leadership and practice
A. There is mutual respect and effective collaboration among parents, families and school staff.
B. Community engagement, together with school efforts, promotes a school climate that is safe, supportive, and respectful and connects students to a broader learning community
C. Parents, students, teachers, principals and community partners build a culture of professional learning, collective trust, and shared responsibility using such as site-based leadership teams and teacher learning communities.
D. Inclusive school leadership who are committed to making the Community School strategy integral to the school’s mandate and functioning. They ensure that the Community School Coordinator is a part of the leadership team and that a Community School Committee (Committee)—which includes parents, community partners, school staff, youth, and other stakeholders that are representatives of the school’s
5. Excellent learning model.
A. Curricula that are engaging, culturally relevant, and challenging.
B. Emphasis on high-quality teaching, not on high-stakes testing.
Source Articles for the Pillars
The articles below include several that are lengthy. We have excerpted their key components into a document in which they present their recommendations for community schools. Read that document here.
Chalkbeat Colorado described a community school in their 2018 article. Read their article here.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland describes what is included in a full-service community school and reports on their success. He also is introducing this week an increase $413 million to the House appropriations bill.
Specifically, Rep. Hoyer's list says that community schools provide:
• Support programs for early childhood education and development;
• Primary care, dental care, and mental health services;
• High-quality early learning programs;
• Academic support for student’s pre-K through 12th grade;
• Youth development and mentoring programs;
• Services that help support parents and promote family engagement, family literacy, and parental involvement;
• Nutrition services to combat hunger insecurity;
• Community service and service learning opportunities;
• Job training and career counseling;
• Financial stability; and
• Access to social service programs for families.
Learning Policy Institute, Research, Action, Impact published the 159 page Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence. Read it here also. They also have published a 112 page Community Schools Playbook. Read it here also.
Their list of pillars is:
1. Integrated student supports
2. Expanded learning time and opportunities
3. Family and community engagement
4. Collaborative leadership and practice
The Center for Popular Democracy published the 100 page report Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools. Read it here also. This article specifically relates to how we want to use community schools to help Colorado public education
1. Curricula that are engaging, culturally relevant, and challenging.
2. Emphasis on high-quality teaching, not on high-stakes testing.
3. Wrap-around supports
4. Positive discipline practices, such as restorative justice
5. Authentic parent and community engagement
6. Inclusive school leadership
The National Education Association published the 108 page THE SIX PILLARS OF COMMUNITY SCHOOLS TOOL KIT, NEA Resource Guide for Educators, Families &Communities. Read it here also.
1 Strong and Proven Curriculum
2 High-quality teaching
3 Inclusive leadership
4 Positive behavior practices
5 Family and community Partnerships
6 Community support services
The National Education Policy Center published the 25 page Strong Collaborative Relationships for Strong Community Schools. Read it here also. This report focus on the leadership guidelines and process of developing a community school. These strategies doesn’t directly fit in the pillars model synopsis so they are not included in the synopsis at the top of this page.
This report focuses on the components of collaborative leadership and how that guides practices and attitudes throughout the community school. These items are not included in the synopsis of the pillars listed above.
Strategies for Creating Collaborative Relationships
Building collective leadership in schools is a promising strategy for creating successful community schools. Based on existing research, the following practices would help community schools effectively practice collaborative leadership in schools:
Create Time: Making time for collaboration to assess issues, set common goals and make plans is important. It is also important to allow time for collaborations to grow and create spaces and times for participants to build this practice and deepen relationships. Teachers benefit from having time to plan, examine student work, collaborate and reflect on practice.
Prioritize Process: Open dialogues that create shared ownership between stakeholders does not happen by chance; it is developed within designated spaces in which people engage honestly and constructively in problem solving. A well-defined process can create rich learning communities in which stakeholders engage in collective reflection and improve practices. Effective processes allow everyone to stay attentive to issues of formal and informal power.
Create Structures and Roles: Formal relationships and collaborative structures create meaningful ways for stakeholders to sustain participation and grow leadership. Stakeholders should have regular meetings, as frequently as every week to discuss their work and build their collective capacity. Leadership that provides both support and pressure can contribute to changing attitudes, beliefs and practices for effective reform.
Commit to Collective Leadership Development: Learning communities in schools that support and challenge teachers help them improve practice. Building the capacity of community members to engage in meaningful ways helps improve conditions for learning and growth both inside and outside of the school. Sharing data and research can create a neutral, collaborative space for all stakeholders to learn together, while at the same time measuring progress holding each other accountable or their work.
The Coalition for Community Schools’ monograph entitled Financing Community Schools, Leveraging Resources to Support Success reports on 49 successful community schools in their November 2010 Building Capacity for Community Schools series.
The monograph contains four parts, Vision/Strategy, Financing Findings, Recommendations for Policymakers, and Case Studies. The recommendations for policy makers are presented below:
A community school is an investment in the community itself. With the coming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, federal, state, and local agencies should take legislative and practical steps to mirror the culture of alignment, leverage, and coordination demonstrated by the community schools featured in this report.
In order to support the sustainability and expansion of community schools, the Coalition recommends that policy makers:
Define and support a community school strategy through laws, regulations and guidelines.
The community school strategy should be defined in district, local government, state and national policy. It should be supported by legislation, regulations and guidelines for all programs providing funding that touches the lives of children, youth, and their families, in the journey from early childhood to college.
The community schools strategy should be included as an allowable use of funds under Title I.
The Full Service Community Schools (FSCS) program should be authorized and funded at a substantial level as a vehicle to help provide a continuing impetus for the development of community schools and serve as a learning laboratory for effective practices.
Funding for technical assistance and capacity building should be available to speed the learning of FSCS grantees and other developing community schools and to support learning among policymakers at all levels.
Provide incentives in ESEA and other legislation that move schools and community partners toward results-driven public/private partnerships.
Policymakers should incentivize partnerships by awarding additional points in grant competitions, rewarding greater flexibility in funding, and setting aside bonus funding for those who meet the following priorities:
Priority for using a comprehensive results framework.
Priority for those who demonstrate alignment and coordination of funding streams.
Priority for partnerships and consortia, over single entities.
Fund site coordination and site coordinators in support of community schools.
Our findings suggest that coordinators are the fulcrum of a community school. They leverage and integrate resources and have proven their value to principals, allowing school administrators to focus on instructional improvement. In order to support these necessary coordination functions, we recommend that:
The Full Service Community Schools Act (H.R. 3545 and S. 1655) should be authorized by Congress as part of ESEA.
The reauthorized ESEA should provide an option to include the funding of a community school coordinator for all Title I schools.
Other federal and state agencies that finance opportunities and services for children, youth or families at schools or linked to schools should specify in grant guidelines that a portion of funding may be used to pay for the salary of a community school coordinator or for site coordination.
Support the work of intermediary organizations that help align and leverage resources and integrate funding streams to get results.
Our finding on intermediaries tells us that they are an essential component to a successful and sustainable community school initiative.
In federal grant guidelines, priority should be given to applicants demonstrating how they support a broad results-focused framework with related indicators for the academic, social, emotional, physical and civic development of young people.
Local policies should support organizations that have the legitimacy and credibility with local stakeholders to perform key intermediary functions.
State policies should support and define clear expectations for Children’s Cabinets or state non-profit organizations whose work cuts across agencies as well as public/private boundaries.
Promote interdepartmental coordination in support of community schools at the federal, state, community and district levels.
Community schools epitomize the key principles of place-based policy that are being advocated by the Obama Administration. In this context:
The White House should organize an Interdepartmental Task Force to develop an action agenda for community schools that develops common language to be included in multiple grant programs of federal agencies so that the end users—schools and community partners—can more readily access and integrate this funding into strong, sustainable, and aligned efforts.
Policymakers should consider administrative flexibility in grant funding that would ease the integration of education programs during the school day so that they are more effective and efficient and reduce the administrative burden
Policymakers should respond to regulatory and administrative challenges identified by state and local leaders that impede community schools development.
Fund professional development that enables people working in schools, with community partners, and in federal and state agencies to learn how community schools work and how policy can support them.
Movement to a community school strategy requires a shift in mind-set among people working in schools and in community partner organizations.
At the federal and state levels, we suggest inter-departmental learning opportunities to help personnel learn how locals are putting together resources to get better results and how policy must change to support them.
At the local level, school administrators and educators need to know more about how to work with families and community organizations. Likewise, staff of community partners need to know more about how schools work.
Title II funds should be used to establish a national center focused on preparing instructional materials and professional development opportunities that assist principals and teachers to work more effectively with community partners and provide a focus on the community where students live.