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Community Schools Land Cover Article in Christian Century

08/11/11

Christian Century, a progressive, ecumenical magazine based in Chicago, made community school their cover story in this month’s publication. "Reform That Works" highlights the efforts of several initiatives that are implementing social service and youth development into schools in order to improve student outcomes. Among those interviewed about the movement was Shital Shah, manager of policy & partnerships at the Coalition.

The article, written by Amy Frykholm, gives an overview of the many approaches competing for attention in the ed reform debate, including the bold measures taken by DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee, as well as 2002’s No Child Left Behind Act, and today’s Race to the Top. All of these initiatives are testing-centric and place most of the accountability for students’ outcome on teachers, which can mean firing teachers who students’ test scores are sub-par, as well as awarding merit pay to those whose students excel. However, the article counters, "Focusing on ‘teacher success’ may also have the opposite of the desired effect for children in low-income neighborhoods…Paying teachers more who are able to show progress may discourage educators from working with educationally struggling students." Countering this issue, Frykholm goes on, are a variety of other reform efforts that seek to address the deeper causes of achievement disparities: poverty, and the many disadvantages that come with it. She quotes teacher Carl Weaver: "’Studies show that poverty – the way these young people enter the classroom – has everything to do with their success later on.’"

One of the education reform programs aimed at these non-school factors is "Faith for Change," a church-based organization founded by Romal Tume, which provides supplies and services to struggling public schools. Tume was raised in poverty and understands well the effect it has on young people’s education. Frykholm also cites David Kirp, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, who recently wrote the book Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children’s Lives and America’s Future. One of these big ideas is community schools, which Frykholm describes as a way of "providing assistance across the spectrum of need." She explains that community schools are a way to stop playing the "blame game": These schools "assume that everyone is invested in seeing children flourish." By providing children with the assistance they need to perform well in school, these holistic efforts are taking their place in the national dialogue of education reform.

Read the Christian Century article here.


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