Community Schools

Listen: Marketplace Series on Community School in Cincinnati – The Community’s Plan
Attention fans of public radio: there’s a community school getting attention at a station near you.
It’s the Oyler School in Cincinnati, one of the city’s many community learning centers – and it’s the subject of an ongoing series from Marketplace, the popular radio program from American Public Media.
“Instead of just relying on education to help kids get out of poverty, the Oyler School is trying to improve their environment as well,” says Kai Ryssdal in the opening to one of the episodes of “One Year, One School,” a year-long series which debuted in September 2012. In the series, education correspondent Amy Scott periodically checks in at Oyler and reports on the work being done in that school to overcome barriers to student success.

Forum Stirs Enthusiasm for Community Schools in Philly
Our City Our Schools June 18, 2013
While Philadelphia schools continue to grapple with a budget in crisis, advocates came together on Saturday to show that they are not ready to stop dreaming big for the city’s education system.
More than 75 parents, students, teachers, and community members came together on Saturday for a forum on community schools, a model for public school reform that is gaining enthusiasm in Philadelphia. The forum, held at Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts, was intended both to educate about community schools and to lay the groundwork for a grassroots campaign to support and sustain the model.

National Center for Community Schools

American Public Media’s Marketplace featured the Cincinnati “Community Learning Centers” in this report from May 2012…
Tackling poverty along with reading and arithmetic
Kai Ryssdal: Education is the great equalizer. It's historically the path out of poverty in this country. But how do you get poor kids to do well in class if they're not getting enough to eat at home? Or they need glasses? Or their parents can't help them with their homework at night?
What if you took care of a lot of the stuff that's supposed to happen outside school in school?
In the second of two stories on education and poverty, Marketplace's Amy Scott takes us to a school in Cincinnati trying to do exactly that.

“Cincinnati’s community learning centers are revitalizing the city’s neighborhoods, bringing families back into public schools and instilling a new sense of hope in neighborhoods where students often gave up on their education. Many share the vision of an education system that serves children from the early years through their transition to post-secondary learning and careers.”
Selected Results from Cincinnati CLCs
·                     Since adopting the CLC strategy, Cincinnati is the first urban district in Ohio to receive an “effective” rating and is the highest- performing urban district inOhio.
·                     CLCs are demonstrating improvement. In 2007–08, only 30.8 percent of CLCs had a rating of continuous improvement or higher; in 2010–11, 73.1 percent of CLCs achieved that distinction.
·                     High school graduation rates climbed from 51 percent in 2000 to 83 percent in 2009.
·                     The achievement gap between African American students and white students narrowed from 14.5 percent in 2003 to 4.3 percent in 2009.

The Community Learning Center Institute
The Community Learning Center Institute leads the ongoing engagement of the Greater Cincinnati community in the development of all schools as community learning centers, each with a set of financially self-sustaining, co-located community partnerships responsive to the vision and needs of each school and its neighborhood.

What Works: Boston's City Connects program:
Twenty years of “school reform” via vouchers, charters and tax credits has not shown them to be systematically any more effective than traditional public schools when it comes to educating high poverty populations of kids.  Here’s an alternative approach that bears closer scrutiny by education policymakers at the state and federal levels:

“The City Connects team has been collecting and analyzing data for 10 years that demonstrate their approach to addressing non-school factors significantly improves academic performance and narrows the achievement gap.  Briefly, their students are doing better on standardized tests, have less retention in grade and chronic absenteeism, and are less likely to drop out of school than students who are never part of City Connects.”

More on Turning Schools Around

 Stu Silberman   | 1 Comment
In a recent blog post about turning around chronically low performing schools, I stressed the critical importance of principal leadership in making such turnarounds possible.
In response, I heard from staff at City Connects, a non-profit organization that addresses out-of-school factors that affect learning (hunger, homelessness, violence, etc.) in the Boston and SpringfieldMA, public schools. Many of these are turnaround schools. City Connects Executive Director Mary E. Walsh wrote: "While strong school leadership is imperative, we believe that it is unfair to ask schools and teachers to bear sole responsibility for closing the economic divide. Systematically addressing out-of-school factors can help students achieve and removes the burden from teachers, allowing them to focus on delivering quality instruction. In fact, our results show that the positive impact of City Connects is greater than the negative impact of poverty when considering student growth in academic achievements across grades 1-5."
At City Connects, trained School Site Coordinators work with teachers and school staff to look at the whole child across four domains: academics, social/emotional/behavioral, health and family. Together, they identify the in- and out-of-school factors affecting every student and match students to community- and school-based services and enrichment activities most appropriate for their individual strengths and needs. The current work is in K-5/K-8 schools with pilots underway for early childhood and high school models.
The results they report are impressive. For a cost of less than $500 per child, they are helping to break through achievement gaps. I believe this program (and others like it), in conjunction with strong development of principals, should be replicated around the country to help turn around chronically low- performing schools.

Here’s the website for City Connects…..
Welcome to City Connects
We are an innovative school-based intervention that revitalizes student support in grades K-8. City Connects collaborates with teachers and school staff to identify the strengths and needs of every child. We then create a uniquely tailored set of intervention, prevention, and enrichment services located in the school and community designed to help each student learn and thrive. By address the in- and out-of-school factors that impact children, we help students succeed in school.

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