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PRESS RELEASE: More Focus on Local Collective Action Needed in Federal Equity Agenda

02/20/13

(Washington, DC) – The Coalition for Community Schools applauds the work of the National Commission on Equity and Education. The Commission offers trenchant analysis of the inequities facing our young people today, and many of its recommendations would go far toward building a more equitable and excellent system of education in our country.
 
We are pleased that the Commission called for a joint effort at the policy level: "Communities, tribes, states and the federal government working together must create a policy infrastructure for providing services to underserved children by crafting standards to support at-risk children, encourage family engagement, and provide health care and health education and expanded learning time." This kind of intergovernmental effort is sorely needed.
 
From our perspective however, the Commission gave too little attention to the many efforts emerging across the country to tie together family engagement, health and mental health, expanded learning and many other opportunities through school-community partnerships as part of a comprehensive plan to support the whole child.
 
"Without the collective action of local leaders who are working to tie the resources of our communities to their public schools, our nation will never achieve its equity and excellence goals," said Martin Blank, Director of the Coalition for Community Schools. "Collective action is precisely what community school initiatives across the country are doing and it represents the best of what communities can do when they share responsibility for the education of all their children."
 
The Community Learning Centers in Cincinnati referenced in the commission report (Pg. 31) are representative of the most well-developed community school initiatives in the nation. Begun in 2000 under the leadership of former Governor John Gilligan and then Superintendent Steve Adamowski, the Cincinnati Community Learning Centers initiative predates Strive by seven years, and functions independently. Work to transform The Oyler School into a K-12 Community Learning Center actually began in 2002. The amazing story of Oyler is being chronicled in a series on Marketplace on Public Radio and a February 19 story in Education Daily
 
Oyler is but one of the now 35 community learning centers in Cincinnati. At each center, a Resource Coordinator integrates the work of multiple partners in health, mental health, academic enrichment, youth development and other arenas into the life and work of the school. While there is a long way to go, the community learning center strategy has helped make Cincinnati the highest performing urban school district in Ohio. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for community schools builds on the Cincinnati approach and many other communities are drawing on the experience of the Cincinnati Community Learning Centers, to scale up community schools. 
 
Moving forward, the Coalition will continue to work with the many communities implementing and planning community school strategies, as well as our more than 150 national partners, to make community schools a core element of our nation’s equity and excellence agenda.
 
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