School choice: Community schools

23 Oct

Moi wrote in Improving education: Community schools:
There is no magic bullet or “Holy Grail” in education. There is only what works to produce academic achievement in each population of children. That is why school choice is so important. For some communities and for some children, “community schools” might improve education achievement. The Coalition for Community Schools is a great resource for those interested in “community schools.”

A community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement 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 bring together many partners to offer a range of supports and opportunities to children, youth, families and communities. Partners work to achieve these results:
o Children are ready to learn when they enter school and every day thereafter. All students learn and achieve to high standards.
o Young people are well prepared for adult roles in the workplace, as parents and as citizens.
o Families and neighborhoods are safe, supportive and engaged.
o Parents and community members are involved with the school and their own life-long learning.
To learn more about the Coalition’s vision of a community school, read the section An Enduring Vision in the Coalition’s report, Making the Difference: Research and Practice in Community Schools. Also, watch as the U.S. Secretary of Education speak of the importance of community schools on Charlie Rose.
For more information on what it means to be a community school, read Community Schools: Partnerships for Excellence (PDF, 426k).

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post wrote an interesting article about “community schools.”

In Why community schools are part of the answer, Strauss wrote:

Community schools, by directly dealing with many of the out-of-school issues that affect how students do in school — such as violence, family mobility, etc. — help to create the conditions that allow young people to actually concentrate on academics. Community schools seek to create conditions for learning that include:
*Fostering early childhood development through high-quality comprehensive programs.
*Providing students qualified teachers, challenging curriculum and high standards and expectations.
*Addressing the basic physical, mental and emotional health needs of families.
*Creating safe, supportive school climates through community engagement.
There is not a single model of community school initiatives but rather a number of different ones that share common principles, according to the Coalition for Community Schools. The coalition is an alliance of elementary, secondary and post-secondary organizations at the state, local and national level that are involved with education, youth development, community planning and development, family support, health and human services and more.
One of the many models of community schools, which serve millions of children around the country, is called “Schools of the 21st Century,” which provides school-based child care and family support services.
Created by Edward Ziegler, a professor at Yale University who was an architect of the Head Start program, this model is now being used in 1,300 schools across the country and turns regular public schools into year-round centers where different services are provided to families the before, during and after school hours. You can learn about other models here.

Strauss has updated here report with a piece by Brock Cohen.

In the Washington Post article, Why community schools are a no-brainer, Cohen wrote:

The community schools framework rejects this notion. This is because each of its foundational principles reveals the imperative of addressing low achievement through a holistic course of action. Such a transition represents a radical departure from past school initiatives because it has the audacity to shine a light on gaps carved out by social inequity. As importantly, the movement’s current champions (Sen. Liu among them) refuse to shy away from naming poverty and social injustice as the primary impediments to student learning. As a call to arms, they direct us to the sprawling body of evidence that proves how futile any reform effort will become without quickly addressing 0-4 poverty-induced learning gaps, summer literacy erosion, or a failure to ensure that all children have quality physical and mental health care.
They also emphasize how community schools are as much an exercise in sober fiscal pragmatism as they are a moral call to action. The consequences of academic failure are everyone’s problem, costing the state over $58 billion each year in incarceration expenses, health care, and taxable income.
But the gaps aren’t insurmountable. They can gradually narrow by leveraging partnerships; engaging families; and re-defining schools as safe, stable, welcoming community spaces. And because the needs of children vary across demographics and geographies, the model embraces flexibility: Each school site should customize its own approach in conjunction with local agencies and civic partners that understand the primacy of nurturing the whole child. So while community schools seek to address all domains of student need, some may allocate more resources toward specific services or strategies. For example:
• Pasadena’s Madison Elementary has teamed with Healthy Start to provide comprehensive on-site health, wellness, and social, and parent education to all of its students and families
• Four Redwood City Schools have formed a consortium with civic partners to make 0-5 education and enrichment a regional imperative.
• Behind the support of the Community Heath & Adolescent Mentoring Program for Success (CHAMPS), Oakland Tech High has detailed programs in place to boost student engagement and youth leadership.
• Joining forces with Inner City Struggle (ICS), East L.A.’s Esteban E. Torres High School offers primary healthcare, mental health, reproductive services, and dental care to all of its students.
Past school reform initiatives focused on channeling limited fiscal and human resource inputs to schools and districts. What makes the community schools framework more substantive and sustainable is that it establishes inputs as the process by which each of a child’s needs domains are fulfilled. If community partners and resources (as inputs) are actively engaged in addressing these needs (health, wellness, literacy and cognitive growth) the outcomes will take care of themselves.
The past decade-plus of school reform has been as notable for its soaring rhetoric as for its inaction on the issues that truly hinder learning and achievement. But as an educator who’s fresh from the classroom, I cannot stress how gratifying it is to see evidence of collective and intentional action springing up in schools throughout the state. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that each of the schools on the Pathways to Partnerships bus tour has shown seismic improvements in campus-wide learning, health, and wellness since fully committing to the community schools framework. But scores of others throughout California have followed the same pattern.
Still, it goes without saying that community schools are not a cure for soaring child poverty (afflicting 1 in 4 children statewide). And an even bigger nemesis may be the “not my kid” mindset that seems to afflict a vast number of citizens who remain undeterred by California’s nationwide ranking of 49 in per-pupil expenditures….

Moi wrote in The ‘whole child’ approach to education:
Many children do not have a positive education experience in the education system for a variety of reasons. Many educators are advocating for the “whole child” approach to increase the number of children who have a positive experience in the education process.
The National Education Association (NEA) describes the “whole child” approach to learning in the paper, Meeting the Needs of the Whole Child.

Meeting the needs of the whole child requires:

• Addressing multiple dimensions, including students’ physical, social and emotional health and well-being.
• Ensuring equity, adequacy and sustainability in resources and quality among public schools and districts.
• Ensuring that students are actively engaged in a wide variety of experiences and settings within—and outside—the classroom.
• Providing students with mentors and counselors as necessary to make them feel safe and secure.
• Ensuring that the condition of schools is modern and up-to-date, and that schools provide access to a broad array of resources.
• Reducing class size so that students receive the individualized attention they need to succeed.
• Encouraging parental and community involvement.

ASCD, (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) along with the NEA is leading in the adoption of the “whole child” approach.

Sean Slade, director of Healthy School Communities, a program of the ASCD, an education leadership organization wrote the Washington Post article, Taking a stand for ‘the whole child’ approach to school reform.

A whole child approach to education enhances learning by addressing each student’s social, emotional, physical, and academic needs through the shared contributions of schools, families, communities, and policymakers. It is a move away from education policy that far too narrowly focuses on student standardized test scores as the key school accountability measure and that has resulted in the narrowing of curriculum as well as rigid teaching and learning environments.
The true measure of student success is much more than a test score, and ensuring that young people achieve in and out of school requires support well beyond effective academic instruction. The demands of the 21st century require a new approach to education to fully prepare our nation’s youth for college, career, and citizenship.
Our last two Vision in Action Award Winners, Price Laboratory School (PLS) in Iowa and Quest Early College High School in Texas, exemplify what we mean. Both of these schools work to ensure that each child is healthy, safe, supported, engaged and challenged, whether it is through foundation of daily physical education for all grades K-12; or the weekly health programs promoting empowerment, fresh and organic foods, as is the case at Price Lab; or yearlong personal wellness plans, and a focus on social/emotional as well as physical health at Quest
Lessons and projects extend outside the classroom walls and into the local community. They are adapted to engage students and reworked to provide for personal learning styles and interest. Advisory groups – or “families” as they are called at Quest – abound and are a crucial part in making each teacher, student and family feel respected. And in both schools all are expected to achieve and are provided the mechanisms to do so. They don’t just set the bar high. They provide the steps and supports to get over that bar.
Both schools have gone beyond just a vision for educating the whole child to actions that result in learners who are knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling.
But this ideal should not be found only in the the occasional school. It should be found in all schools….
If you think a child’s worth is more than a test score, sign ASCD’s petition to create a President’s Council on the Whole Child.

Many of the schools and neighborhoods facing challenges are where there are pockets of high unemployment and underemployment with high levels of family instability. Children in these neighborhoods face a myriad of challenges which require an more comprehensive approach to education. See, Christina Silva’s Huffington Post article, 1 in 5 U.S. Children Lives in Poverty

ASCD is promoting the Whole Child Initiative:

Explore resources and opportunities for action here and on, and together we’ll change the face of education policy and practice. Find sets of indicators related to each tenet below. Taken together across all five tenets and the central necessities of collaboration, coordination, and integration, these indicators may serve as a needs assessment, set of strategic goals and outcomes, framework for decision making, or the definition of what a whole child approach to education truly requires. Download theindicators (PDF).
Whole Child Tenets
o Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
o Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
o Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
o Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
o Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.

In order to ensure that ALL children have a basic education, we must take a comprehensive approach to learning.

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