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Community School - A New Approach with a Traditional Goal

As a result of the federal mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, many public schools have had to look at various strategies to meet and/or exceed the Annual Yearly Progress (AYPs) benchmarks. One such strategy holds benefits for not just the school and its students, but the community as a whole. The strategy is known as a Community School. Advocated by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, the concept of a Community School is working towards closing the achievement gap for America’s students.

Just what is a Community School? According to a report entitled “Making the Difference; Research and Practice in Community Schools,” written by the Coalition for Community Schools, the concept is explained as follows:

 A community school is both a place and a set of partnerships
between the school and other community resources. Its integrated
focus on academics, services, supports and opportunities leads to
improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.
Schools become centers of the community and are open to everyone
—all day, every day, evenings and weekends. Using public schools as
hubs, community schools knit together inventive, enduring relationships
among educators, families, volunteers and community partners. Health
and social service agencies, family support groups, youth development
organizations, institutions of higher education, community organizations,
businesses, and civic and faith-based groups all play a part. By sharing
expertise and resources, schools and communities act in concert to
transform traditional schools into permanent partnerships for excellence.
Schools value the resources and involvement of community partners,
and communities understand that strong schools are at the heart of strong neighborhoods. In an increasingly complex and demanding educational
climate, schools are not left to work alone. Students engage in learning and
service activities at a community school and have access to an array of
personal and social supports. Community schools promote youth development
activities and community-based learning and offer preventive health and
social services before, during and after school. Parents and community
residents support their children’s learning while developing their own knowledge
and skills. Literacy classes, adult and parent education, employment training,
family support, and leadership development all are part of the community
school vision. Families, youth and residents join with educators and community
partners to articulate the community’s goals for its students, and to help design, implement and evaluate activities. Participation of these stakeholders as decision
makers helps ensure that community schools meet local needs and show
measurable progress.

It seems to be a large description of a simple idea, but it holds tremendous benefits for each student and his/her family. Simply, put, Community Schools were created to help parents and families in lower income areas engage in their children’s education by partnering with other community-based organizations to help provide basic needs to children and families critical to a child’s development.

Robberson Elementary was recently designated as a Community School. While the Springfield Public School system is still in the process of implementing this concept locally, it has found success in other public school districts. By partnering with various community agencies, this educational concept holds great promise for the school and its students.

For more information about educational opportunities and change, check out the following books at the Springfield-Greene County Libraries.

The American dream and the public schools by Jennifer L. Hochschild and Nathan Scovronick.

Crash course : imagining a better future for public education  by Chris Whittle


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