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Part One: The Scale-Up Imperative




A community schools strategy can have its broadest, deepest, and most sustainable impact when a school system and its community partners use the strategy in several schools, across one or more districts. A multisite effort embeds the vision of a community school in the principles and practices, beliefs, and expectations of its schools, partner agencies, families, and community members. As the effort scales up and collective trust grows, the vision of a system of community schools becomes the new culture—one in which individuals and organizations alike share the work, responsibility, and benefits of improved results for children, families, schools, and communities.

Thousands of schools across the country have already adopted some variant of a community schools strategy for better meeting student and family needs, and they are seeing a difference in a wide range of indicators that spell school success. However, the advantages of community schooling are not consistently available to students throughout their education from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. To wrap their arms around all their children, communities must expand and sustain a scaled-up system of community schools across neighborhoods and throughout districts.

Clearly, the most important reason to scale up community schools—sometimes referred to as full- service community schools or community learning centers—is the mounting data showing that community schools work. They not only improve test scores but by also ignite the interest and energy of students, teachers, families, and community members in learning and working together. Stated another way, the vision-based culture and collaborative leadership structure created by a community schools strategy sets the stage to achieve—on a large scale—the essential elements that, according to current research, are needed for long-lasting reform: leadership, parent and community engagement, professional capacity, a student-centered learning environment, and instructional guidance.

The second reason to scale up is that a community schools strategy provides a much-needed and effective way to organize fragmented services and to integrate funding streams, permitting scarce dollars to generate a greater impact. Students and families gain access to services when they need them, and more expensive crisis intervention is avoided. According to a recent Coalition for Community Schools study, every dollar spent by a school system to implement a community schools strategy leverages at least three dollars in federal, state, and local funding and in philanthropic and community partner resources. Other estimates are even higher.

The third reason to scale up is that the 2010 Census shows continuing growth in the diversity of America’s student population. The corresponding increase in the number of students whose first language is not English calls for schools that fully engage, challenge, and support these students and their families. A community schools strategy recognizes the tremendous strengths of parents as taxpayers, civic leaders, and advocates.

The fourth reason to scale up is that the policy environment is ripe for expanding community schools. At the federal level, the Promise Neighborhoods initiative, Race to the Top Fund, School Improvement Grants, Title I, and the Invest in Innovation Fund i3 all contain elements of the community schools strategy. P-20 Councils at the state level and in some localities also call for expanded partnerships and resource alignment. They all require a vehicle—which a community schools strategy provides—to help schools and community institutions knit their wide-ranging assets into measurable improvements.

Finally, an emerging body of knowledge provides a useful evidence base for how to scale up and sustain the community schools strategy. Two decades of experience in a growing number of multisite initiatives provide a strong foundation on which other communities can build. National models that employ a community schools strategy offer additional knowledge, including Schools of the 21st Century, Communities in Schools, University Assisted Community Schools, Children’s Aid Society models, and Beacon Schools. Their lessons and insights inform this guidebook.


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

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