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Lesson 5.7

Community Schools:
Could Schools Do More Than Educate?

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

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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

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

Partnerships

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. Terrence Green of the University of Texas at Austin summarized research related to community schools partnerships in 2014.

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

Review

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

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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.
https://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Community-Schools-Layout_021116.pdf
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
davidstephen72 August 26, 2015 at 9:49 pm
Problem! The new Justice Roberts/Obama Care has resulted in premiums so high that
many people can not pay them...thus, avoiding treatments. Additionally, the cost of
drugs has skyrocketed--the payoff for the drug companies for their support of
Justice Roberts/Obama Care. Added to this, doctors across the U.S. are quitting and/or retiring early, increasing dramatically due to the requirements/constraints of
Justice Robers/Obama Care.

And, the non-so-honest designer of Justice Roberts/Obama Care testified that
the American people were "stupid" and would not accept his plan since it "was a tax."
He sold it as "not being a tax." Check the CSPAN Archives and watch Congressman Tray Goudy grill the author of Justice Roberts/Obama Care.
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.
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