Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools Into Thriving Schools

2016 – The Center for Popular Democracy, the Coalition for Community Schools and the Southern Education Foundation have released a report entitled, Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools.

This report profiles community schools across the country that are implementing evidence-based strategies to bring together the resources of school, family, and community to make schools stronger and help young people thrive. Through the use of these strategies, the schools profiled in this report have demonstrated consistent improvement in a wide range of indicators of student success. This report comes at a time when the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reflects a shift toward a broader set of indicators of school success, to include not just test scores but measures of school climate and family engagement.

The report offers templates for community schools policies to be introduced at the local and state levels. It also highlights opportunities provided by ESSA to develop and expand sustainable, transformative community schools across the country.

The report also demonstrates that successful community schools are found across racial, economic, and geographic diversities in this country. Community schools, at their core, are about investing in children through: quality teaching, challenging and engaging curricula, wrap-around supports, positive school climate, strong ties to family and community and a clear focus on results. As low-income students have now become a majority of our students in public schools, the power of community schools to provide opportunities to learn to all children is especially critical.

The report profiles six schools, three districts and a state that has left nothing to chance. They have come to thrive through coordinated implementation of the following six research-based elements of Community Schools:

  • Engaging curricula that are culturally relevant and challenging.
  • An emphasis on high-quality teaching, not on high-stakes testing.
  • Wrap-around supports and opportunities such as health care, eye care, and social and emotional services that support academics available at the school.
  • Positive discipline practices, such as restorative justice and social and emotional learning supports
  • Authentic parent and community engagement is promoted so the full community actively participates in planning and decision-making. This process recognizes the link between the success of the school and the development of the community as a whole.
  • Inclusive school leaders who are committed to making the transformational Community School strategy integral to the school’s mandate and functioning.

The best of these schools leave nothing to chance. They are as committed to challenging academics as they are to health, wellness and social and emotional learning. They are sustained by the broad support they enjoy from their communities. Ultimately, they represent the true purpose of our schools: to prepare young people to pursue their aspirations and participate fully in our economy and democracy.