You Earned a Ticket!

Which school do you want to support?

Lesson 5.7

Community Schools:
Could Schools Do More Than Educate?

Turns out there are some things schools can do other than teach kids.

hero image

Perhaps out of habit, most people usually think of schools as serving a single purpose: teachers teach and students learn. But no school is an island.

Each school, and the families it serves, exists within the context of a larger community. Children’s lives, and their ability to succeed in school are affected by every facet of their community, not just what happens in the classroom.

Success at school is much more difficult if a family’s basic needs (such as housing, health, nutrition, safety, and transportation) are not met. The quality and availability of community services support the quality of schools. In return, schools can also serve as important focal points for community services.

A broader mission for schools

When a crisis happens, it becomes obvious that schools are about more than teaching: they are central to the meaning of community. For example, in a pilot project in San Francisco, homeless students and their families use their elementary school at night for shelter.

The "community schools" movement advocates for a broader definition of the role of a school, particularly in areas of high poverty.

Community Schools - Four Pillars.Four Pillars of Community Schools: Click to view the infographic from the Learning Policy Institute.

This broader vision can vary depending on the needs of the community. As the Coalition for Community Schools puts it, community schools support “an integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement that leads to improved student learning, stronger families, and healthier communities.”

For schools to do more than educate, they must have a vision that extends beyond the school day. This video from Edutopia about New York's Children's Aid Society helps to show some of the possibilities.

One of the most acclaimed examples of a school with these kinds of integrated services is the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City. The Obama administration created the “Promise Neighborhoods” initiative to assist cities in replicating the Harlem model’s success. As of 2017, a cumulative total of $286 million had been awarded to over 700 schools and 1,000 community partners. Congress extended the program in 2018, but the future of the program was unclear.


Most "community school" efforts require coordinated effort among a variety of participating organizations, each of which brings assets to the partnership. Schools on their own do not have unused budget to provide health services, for example, but they may have underused space that a health-focused organization lacks. A 2017 report by Anna Maier, Julia Daniel, and Jeannie Oakes for the Learning Policy Institute summarized the available evidence of impact from a synthesis of research. They conclude that "well-implemented community schools lead to improvement in student and school outcomes and contribute to meeting the educational needs of low-achieving students in high-poverty schools"

The next lesson addresses one of the most important factors driving a school's success or failure: leadership.

Updated July 2017, Aug 2018, Dec 2018


True or False: In a "Community Schools" strategy such as Promise Neighborhoods, school districts allocate a portion of their funding away from educating students in order to support health services and other vital community needs.

Answer the question correctly and earn a ticket.
Learn More

Questions & Comments

To comment or reply, please sign in .

user avatar
Susannah Baxendale January 25, 2019 at 4:14 pm
I believe that any school district that focuses on the whole child (using whatever terminology it chooses), there are positive results. Healthy, well-fed children do better in school; attending to their physical and mental well-being, ensuring that they have school supplies and clean clothes (I believe this came up in an earlier chapter-having clothes washing facilities improved school attendance) and so on. There goes that 'it takes a village' but how true!
user avatar
Caryn January 30, 2019 at 9:42 am
Thanks for your comment, Susannah. Yes, students who attend schools that are able to build those community partnerships can reap tremendous benefits. Screening tests for hearing and vision already exist. Yet, how does one screen for hunger, mental health issues and adequate hygiene without caring adults inside and outside of school on constant watch? We need to be more vigilant about our most vulnerable students if we believe every student in California deserves a great education.
user avatar
Carol Kocivar July 15, 2016 at 10:10 am
Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools
This report outlines six essential strategies for Community Schools and the key mechanisms used to implement these strategies.
user avatar
Jeff Camp - Founder October 19, 2015 at 10:24 am
In Schools as community hubs: Integrating support services to drive educational outcomes Michael Horn et. al. suggest that schools could build meaningful integration with social services through "rotations" of staff early in their careers. "...[E]nabling school leaders to learn about other important fields and institutions early in their careers, from the local health care system to the delivery of social services and housing assistance, would give them
a better understanding of how they could integrate these
services into the school."
A shortcoming of this sort of investment is that school leaders often move on.
user avatar
Elaine Weiss April 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm
Creative funding supports a broad range of strategies that help children, especially disadvantaged students, succeed in school. Community schools, for example, which exist in various iterations across the country, draw on state and local foundations, local business, in-kind provision of after- and summer-school programs, and Title I funds, among others. Indeed, making a school a hub for both students and their parents and bringing those services in-house can free up scarce dollars that would otherwise to go overhead, a boon in tight times. An even more ambitious example, Say Yes to Education, gets support from Syracuse University and over 100 other higher education institutions, agencies, and other sources.

While federal, state, and local budgets are very limited, we need to remember that this is a wealthy country that, at the very least, should be able to provide for all of its children's needs and enable them to fulfill their potential.
user avatar
Serena Clayton April 27, 2011 at 8:56 pm
I agree that health services should not be competing for resources with education - that's not where the opportunity is. All signals are that we are moving toward a health care system that WILL reward improved health outcomes, or at least improved delivery of services believed to impact health outcomes. This is an opportunity for education stakeholders to join the conversation about health care reform and advocate for health services to be located on school campuses.
user avatar
Serena Clayton April 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm
I believe that when we look across the landscape of services for kids, health care emerges as the sector with the most promise for supporting school health services. Health care reform is going to result in more kids getting coverage through Medicaid or the new insurance exchanges. The vast majority of these kids will be enrolled in managed care plans. These plans, and the providers they contract with, are increasingly going to be rewarded based on how well they do on indicators of service delivery and health outcomes. School health services can help health plans and providers get better outcomes for their pediatric patients - more screenings, higher immunization rates, more well-visits, better management of chronic disease, reduced ER visits, reduced teen pregnancies, etc.

One of the areas of work of the California School Health Centers Association is to make the case for school health in the health policy arena. We need to build a bridge between these two very different policy worlds - health and education - to make the case that if each deploys some resources toward school health services (as described in the Oakland example), it's a win, win.
©2003-2019 Jeff Camp
Design by SimpleSend

Sharing is caring!

Password Reset

Change your mind? Sign In.

Search all lesson and blog content here.

Welcome Back!

Login with Email

We will send your Login Link to your email
address. Click on the link and you will be
logged into Ed100. No more passwords to

Share via Email

Get on Board!
Learn how California's School System works so you can make a difference.
Our free lessons are short, easy to read, and up to date. Each lesson you complete earns a ticket for your school. You could win $1,000 for your PTA.

Join Ed100

Already a member? Login

Or Create Account