Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Community Schools Making a Difference for Students
Press Release

RELEASE: Community Schools Making a Difference for Students

Washington, D.C.–In two new reports released today by the Center for American Progress, two new ways to develop and grow community schools as a rural education strategy and through the use of expanded learning time are explored. The papers prompt policymakers and advocates to consider ways that the community school strategy can be applied in settings not traditionally associated with the model and were the topic for a discussion today between Doris Terry Williams, Executive Director of the Rural School and Community Trust and Director of the Trust’s Capacity Building Program, Martin Blank, Director of the Coalition for Community Schools and President of the Institute for Educational Leadership, and Adeline Ray, Director, Chicago Community Schools Initiative at an event held by the center.

Breaking the Mold: Combining Community Schools with Expanded Learning Time to Help Educationally Disadvantaged Students

Think schooling in the United States and the image that comes to mind is of a red brick building filled with classrooms each lined with straight rows of desks facing a teacher in front of a blackboard. And when the bell rings every morning at exactly the same time, children enter that red brick school only to exit a few hours later when the bell rings again at exactly the same time every afternoon. School is the place where children are expected to orderly progress through each grade to an eventual high school graduation. This picture of schooling has been ingrained in our daily routine for generations.

In general, our public schools treat the majority of children within a school building the same regardless of their lives outside of school. But what about the students who face nonacademic obstacles to learning? A student who does not have access to preventive health care, for example, may be confronted with impediments to success in school. And what about the student who is struggling academically and could benefit from additional time for instruction and enrich- ment than what is prescribed under the traditional school calendar?

Teachers and administrators try their best to help students succeed, but they typically lack the capacity to provide additional supports to children beyond academic instruction. Teachers run up against the inflexible confines imposed by the school calendar. They often lack time to cover all material. And the demands of meet- ing academic standards often mean that enrichment opportunities at school are placed on the backburner. It’s time to re-envision how resources can be used to help struggling children succeed academically.

This paper by Isabel Owen will examine two schoolwide reform models—community schools and expanded learning time—that challenge the rigid boundaries of the conventional school model in order to close the achievement gap.

For the full text of the paper, click here.

The Rural Solution: How Community Schools Can Reinvigorate Rural Education

One in five students in the United States—19.4 percent—attends a public elementary or secondary school designated as rural. The view outside the classroom window for some of these students is “one of scenic fields, pasture lands, or forests nestled at the base of mountains.” But variations across rural America can be stunning. Some students have a view of the polluted coastline where their parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents used to make a living, the abandoned mining equipment that once tied their families’ livelihoods to the company store, or the vast clear-cut space that was once a forest amid rolling hills. These visual contrasts mirror the diverse cultural, social, economic, and political realities that make rural places what they are today.

The situations surrounding rural education—like the views from the classroom windows—vary widely from place to place. But what rural places have in common is the challenge to provide a quality education to ensure the success of some 10 million students. This challenge often comes with difficult odds—inadequate financing, teacher shortages, and inaccessible or unaffordable services for children and families. The partnerships and approach of “full-service community schools” may hold the greatest potential for addressing rural education’s challenges and ensuring that every child has at least a near-equal opportunity to succeed.

This paper combines data from the literature and other public sources, interviews, site visits, and the organizational experience of The Rural School and Community Trust in an examination of community schools from a rural perspective. It provides a context for rural community schools and discusses the need for clarification of the language used to describe the concept of community school. Three examples of successful rural community schools provide a framework for discussing the benefits, characteristics, and policy implications of rural community schools.

The paper by Doris Terry Williams also discusses the challenges that rural areas confront in attempting to implement a community school strategy and offers recommendations for overcoming them

For the full text of the paper, click here.