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Part One: A Community Where Learning Happens




An individual community school lays the foundation for success; just ask any child, family, teacher, or community partner who is a participant. The challenge is to extend the community schools logic—and the conditions for learning—across school boundaries so that all children and their families in a community may benefit. When schools and community partners take steps to link individual community schools into coordinated systems, the systems become the building blocks of a fully engaged child- and family-centered community. Together, they build an infrastructure of support and opportunities to create the conditions for learning across entire localities. The result is the development of "communities where learning happens’"—every day, for every child.  Figure 2 depicts a community where learning happens.

Figure 2. A Community Where Learning Happens
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In communities where learning happens, there is a broad foundation of citizen participation. Families and community partners stand together to promote action on child, school, and family issues. Children and families are not isolated but rather are surrounded by interconnected rings of learning and support. First in importance are relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who share information and often offer a helping hand—monitoring children’s safety and sending messages about the importance of education. At the same time, students are closely connected to their community schools while the schools are linked to other helping institutions such as houses of worship and community organizations, libraries, health clinics, and volunteer agencies—all of which enable students to explore and participate in the larger community. In addition, crisis intervention and treatment services are readily available to support students and families as needed.

Ideally, the interconnected rings of learning and support are held together by a sturdy infrastructure in the form of good jobs, effective transportation, affordable housing, and public safety. Every child should live in a community where learning happens, but many do not. These are the types of places that are envisioned in a variety of efforts to revitalize our nation’s neighborhoods (e.g., Promise Neighborhoods and the White House’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative). Community schools should be at the core of such efforts, just as public schools have always been the centerpiece of strong communities.

Figure 3 illustrates the connections between an individual community school, a system of community schools, and a community where learning happens.

Figure 3. A Fully Developed Community School Vision

here for a printer friendly version of Figure 3.

A scaled-up system of community schools does not spring up over night. We are well aware of the difficulties faced by well-funded, comprehensive community initiatives that have sought to change the way education, health, and social services are designed, delivered, and evaluated. These important efforts have clearly demonstrated that systems transformation takes time, coupled with a guiding vision and the capacity to build and sustain new relationships, policies, and practices. A 2010 study of two decades of comprehensive community initiatives notes that progress grows out of "better alignment of mission, action, capacity, collaboration and learning." We also see the need for greater effort to understand how complex systems—such as communities and community schools—operate and where and how they respond to change.

In contrast to many comprehensive community change initiatives, community schools partners have focused on a single entry point—public schools—as a strategic way to build more responsive communities. The most successful initiatives forge relationships and craft collaborative agendas that are "plausible, doable and testable." The lessons learned by many of these initiatives have helped shine a light on the various "moving parts" of a community schools strategy. Part Two of the guide looks at how these various components work together.


Guide Home - IntroductionPart I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Appendix - Tools

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