By Michele Rivers Murphy, Ed.D., CEI Research Associate
Community schools set the pace for engaging and meaningful home-school involvement where families are partners in educational planning and decision-making. Community schools is an umbrella term used to describe the many variations of school-community partnerships. Full-service community schools are attached to more comprehensive strategies that include health, education and social services. The concept is purposefully flexible to allow communities to look at their own needs and assets and determine their own vision of school and community relationships.
Community schools have taught us since their resurgence in 2000 that most past educational reforms have produced only marginal results in comparison, largely because they focus almost exclusively on the instructional side of teaching and learning (IEL, 2014). What the 21st century is telling us is that children’s lives cannot be compartmentalized; all parts must be considered as key to the big picture of educating a child. In other words, we have a shared responsibility to meet children where they are when they enter the school steps and attend to their individual needs in the context of the classrooms.
While a whole child community education strategy should be designed to meet the individual needs of each community, Vallejo California Unified School District (VCUSD) is one example of full-service community schools that have demonstrated that the power of possibilities are limitless. As implemented in VCUSD, community schools result in increased academic gains, increased attendance, increased parental involvement and reduced suspensions, and reductions in the drop-out rate. For many reasons, communities can address needs that might otherwise go unmet. We are encouraged with the gains that are being made in community schools across America.
Institute for Educational Leadership. (2014). Leading across boundaries. Retrieved from: http://iel.org/sites/default/files/IEL-at-50-Cross-Boundary-Leadership-for-the-Common-Good_0.pdf