The Case for Community Schools

Last week, the Center for American Progress hosted an event, “Innovative Strategies for Community Schools”, to address the potential for expanding the community school approach and to address increased learning times.  Community schools are more than just traditional schools.  They go beyond the classroom walls by providing students with on-site health clinics and community activities, while also providing parents the opportunity to take classes and become immersed in their child’s education.  Community schools are driven by innovate strategies intended to ensure quality education by merging schools together and by implementing programs to motivate students.

Cynthia Brown, vice president for Education Policy at the Center opened the event and was followed by the moderator and Education Policy Analyst for the Center, Seba BiredaMartin Blank, Director of the Coalition for Community Schools and President of the Institute for Education Leadership argued that community schools create the right conditions for learning and prepare students by emphasizing that the level of commitment required to succeed reaches beyond the classroom.

Two studies were also distributed at the event that discussed extending the amount of education.  The first, by panelist Doris Terry Williams, demonstrated a consistently positive correlation between schools extending hours and student output. In the second study, panelist Adeline Ray, Director of the Chicago Community Schools Initiative, noted that extended hours would cost over $400 million per year for a one hour a day increase in some urban school districts.

The panel remained optimistic that the community school system has proven its effectiveness in bringing struggling schools and communities together, with more students successfully graduating and becoming career oriented. Ms. Williams concluded that “If we can get communities focused on that quality education for all kids, then I think all of these other pieces will come into play,” and not only will stronger schools lead to better education, but provide the economy with a resilient work force for the future.

Posted by: Michael Darden

Sources: Center for American Progress

Photo credit: Flat Classroom Skype courtesy of flick user superkimbo in BKK

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