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Community Schools Top Ten 2016


2016 marked an exciting year of growth, emerging state coalitions, supportive policy, stronger connections with health, and the Coalition’s largest National Forum to date. As we enter 2017, the federal education landscape is uncertain, but we believe the momentum for community schools from the local and state levels will continue to grow as communities increasingly see results-focused partnerships as critical to young people’s success. With the support of new Steering Committee members and Coalition staff, we are hopeful and ambitious about growing the number of places and quality of community schools across the country in 2017 to move closer toward our vision of schools as centers flourishing communities where everyone belongs, works together, and thrives.

1) Largest National Forum to Date: In April, the Coalition hosted its largest National Forum to date, bringing together over 1,700 attendees from 44 states and 8 countries in Albuquerque, NM. The Forum’s theme, Rising Together: Learning across School, Family and Community, highlighted the critical learning component of community schools through plenaries, focus sessions, and site visits including the Homework Diner. The weather was warm and the energy was palpable. Coming off of this success, we look forward to bringing over 2,000 people to Baltimore in 2018. 
2) Continued Growth: We welcomed new community school places to our networks including Duluth, MN; Las Vegas, NV; Erie, PA; and Las Cruces, NM. A new program from New York state distributed funds to 225 districts across the state (approximately 30%) representing potential for significant growth there. Increasingly, Promise Neighborhoods and Promise Zones are exploring the community school strategy and 60+ participants from these initiatives participated in a special pre-conference session at the National Forum. Not in one of our networks yet? Learn more about them here.
3) Growing State Coalitions: Since our 2016 National Forum, 20 states plus D.C. have expressed interest in forming a state coalition, and 7 of those states held convening’s this year. These convening’s have attracted state commissioners, legislators, and various communities to unite behind stronger state support for community schools. The Coalition launched a peer learning network for the state coalitions with monthly calls. And the Coalition is supporting an emerging network with the Council of Chief State School Officers to strengthen awareness and support for community schools among state chiefs. 
4) State and Local Policy Momentum: Legislation or funding was introduced in eight states in 2016 and approved in four states, from an innovative law in California that will redirect over $20 million from the prison system to education including community schools, to an unprecedented $175 million for community schools in New York. These states span the political spectrum-from Maryland to Utah to Minnesota to Arizona-- reinforcing that community schools is a bipartisan strategy. At least four local policies also passed, two of them in large cities-Baltimore and Pittsburgh-and also in Pomona, CA and Las Cruces, NM. 
5) Supportive Federal Legislation and Funding: The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal education law that passed late last year, authorized Full Service Community Schools for the first time in the law’s history and contains several other provisions supportive of community schools. The Coalition has supported the field through guidance on stakeholder engagement and local Title I planning, and a webinar series with national partners on ESSA. Community school leaders are engaging in the ESSA state planning process underway now, to be followed by local planning next.  In addition, funding for the federal Full Service Community School grants continued this year at $10 million, supporting 21 current grantees.
6) Continued Media Recognition for Community Schools: Top outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, Education Week, and Huffington Post carried stories about community schools this year. Meanwhile, national organizations including the National Education Association, Center for American Progress, and the National Afterschool Association featured community schools in their publications.  Stories about new places, policy wins and more are accessible on our news page
7) Celebrating Our Partners: Partners at all levels continue to be the strength of our Coalition. Partners helped make this the largest National Forum and were essential in developing sessions that were meaningful. New reports and articles on community schools were written by partners such as the Center for Popular Democracy and the Southern Education Foundation, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the Afterschool Alliance. Partners play critical roles in all of our projects and networks. If you are interested in becoming a partner, read more here.
8) Research on Impact: New research shows the growth of community schools and improvement across a variety of outcomes such as reducing chronic absence. Check out this report from the Brookings Institute, local research from Baltimore, and a New York Times op-ed.
9) Strengthening Connections with Health: Community schools are building a culture of health in their communities. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, community schools are deepening their connections with the health systems and creating supports and opportunities that will improve health outcomes for children and their families. Our Community Schools Leadership Network and State Coalition Network met in Oakland to learn how school districts and their partners are creating a thriving and healthier community. In November we hosted our highest-ever attended webinar on Addressing Trauma in Community Schools, and are providing culture of health resources regularly in our newsletters. In 2017 we will work intensively with five sites to strengthen their cultures of health. 
10) New Staff and Steering Committee Members: The Coalition has added two great staff! LJ Wilson has joined us as the Communications Coordinator and Bernice Butler is our new Partnerships Manager. Together, LJ and Bernice bring new energy, experience, and enthusiasm to our team. Among their responsibilities, LJ will develop and launch our new website and Bernice will strengthen and grow our networks. The Coalition team is fully staffed and ready to make 2017 a year of growth and impact for the community schools movement. The Coalition also added new members to our Steering Committee, including Kyle Serrette, Center for Popular Democracy; Leah Austin, Southern Education Foundation, Sanjiv Rao, Ford Foundation; Suzanne Kerbow, Polk Bros. Foundation; and Rochelle Davis, Healthy Schools Campaign.  
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