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Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

Leading Academic, Robert Putnam, Highlights Community Schools

Robert Putnam’s important new book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis is capturing attention across the nation and the political spectrum.  We are excited that Dr. Putnam, best known for his book on social capital, Bowling Alone, talks about community schools as one of the viable solutions to our national challenge.  This reference and his comments about the favorable research supporting community schools are a major step forward for our movement.  Here is what he wrote:

Another broad approach to education as a means of narrowing the opportunity gap derives from the long tradition of educational reformers (dating back to the work of John Dewey in Chicago during the Progressive Era) who emphasize links between schools and the community. One strand in this approach puts social and health services in schools serving poor children. The Coalition for Community Schools concludes, "A community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities." Typically, community schools include youth activities at all hours and programs to engage parents and community members actively in the educational process as well as to link children and families to social service and health agencies. Similar schools are found in many other countries, like the United Kingdom, where evaluations have been very positive, especially for kids and communities facing difficulties, even though the program is expensive. More limited evaluations of American community schools have so far been favorable.

We encourage you to read Putnam’s book and check out the many reviews and articles written about Our Kids.  Read reviews in the Huffington Post, Washington Post and The Economist As you do, keep this idea in mind. 

The Coalition has long argued that one key advantage of community schools over other strategy is that they build the kind of social capital that Putnam talked about in Bowling Alone.  Making the Difference (2003) we said: 

Social capital connects students to people and information that can help them solve problems and meet their goals; it enables them to build networks and relationships that support learning and create opportunities for young people while strengthening their communities. By uniting school, family and community, community schools enable all students to forge networks and social skills through mentoring relationships with caring adults, work-based learning, community service and other experiences, while providing parents and other adults with similar opportunities to learn and assume leadership roles.

No one has patented the secret sauce needed to grow the social capital that all our kids so desperately need, particularly young people of color.  I believe community schools are finding the recipe.  Perhaps we should start building bowling allies in community schools and invite Dr. Putnam to join our team.

Let me know what you are doing to grow social capital in your community schools.  Email

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