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Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence

New Report Provides Research Based Evidence that
Community Schools are an Effective School Improvement Strategy 

Learning Policy Institute and National Education Policy Center recently released, 
Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence. The report concludes 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 highpoverty schools. Strong research reinforces the efficacy of integrated student supports, expanded learning time and opportunities, and family and community engagement as intervention strategies. Promising evidence supports the positive impact of the type of collaborative leadership and practice found in community schools, although little of this research has been done in community schools. The research base examining the "full service" community schools model that includes most or all of the four pillars is newer, more limited in size, and consists primarily of evaluation studies of 143 sites. 

Finding 1. The evidence base on community schools and their pillars justifies the use of community schools as a school improvement strategy that helps children succeed academically and prepare for full and productive lives.
Finding 2. Sufficient evidence exists to qualify the community schools approach as an evidence based intervention under ESSA (i.e., a program or intervention must have at least one well-designed study that fits into its four-tier definition of evidence).
Finding 3. The evidence base provides a strong warrant for using community schools to meet
the needs of low-achieving students in high-poverty schools and to help close opportunity and achievement gaps for students from low-income families, students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities.
Finding 4. The four key pillars of community schools promote conditions and practices found in high-quality schools and address out-of-school barriers to learning.
Finding 5. The integrated student supports provided by community schools are associated with positive student outcomes. Young people receiving such supports, including counseling, medical care, dental services, and transportation assistance, often show significant improvements in attendance, behavior, social functioning, and academic achievement.
Finding 6. Thoughtfully designed expanded learning time and opportunities provided by
community schools—such as longer school days and academically rich and engaging after-school, weekend, and summer programs—are associated with positive academic and nonacademic outcomes, including improvements in student attendance, behavior, and academic achievement. Notably, the best-designed studies show the strongest positive effects.
Finding 7. The meaningful family and community engagement found in community schools is associated with positive student outcomes, such as reduced absenteeism, improved academic outcomes, and student reports of more positive school climates. Additionally, this engagement can increase trust among students, parents, and staff, which has positive effects on student outcomes.
Finding 8. The collaborative leadership, practice, and relationships found in community schools can create the conditions necessary to improve student learning and well-being, as well as improve relationships within and beyond the school walls. The development of social capital and teacher peer learning appear to be the factors that explain the link between collaboration and better student achievement.
Finding 9. Comprehensive community school interventions have a positive impact, with
programs in many different locations showing improvements in student outcomes, including
attendance, academic achievement, high school graduation rates, and reduced racial and economic achievement gaps.
Finding 10. Effective implementation and sufficient exposure to services increase the success of a community schools approach, with research showing that longer operating and better implemented programs yield more positive results for students and schools.
Finding 11. Existing cost-benefit research suggests an excellent return on investment of up to $15 in social value and economic benefits for every dollar spent on school-based wraparound services.
Finding 12. The evidence base on comprehensive community schools can be strengthened by well-designed evaluations that pay close attention to the nature of the services and their implementation


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