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Six Awardees are Putting the Community Back into the Fabric of Schools

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Six Awardees are Putting the Community
 Back into the Fabric of Schools
Placing Students at the Center Helps New York, Oakland, Chicago,
 and Nashville Receive National Community Schools Awards 
WASHINGTON-May 11, 2017- With the Every Student Succeeds Act shifting authority and autonomy down to states from the federal government, local neighborhoods, schools, and leaders are asking themselves how to best serve students. The six winners of the National Community Schools Awards for Excellence listen to the voices of youth, families, and community members to improve schools. They also connect students to career opportunities, use data, provide wraparound services, and help recent immigrants and English language learners succeed. Community schools engage partners and keep students at the center by listening to their needs and creating the opportunities they deserve. The results include improved attendance and academic outcomes.
Each of the winners, which include both individual schools and multi-site community school initiatives, have a unique success story to share. These awardees are tackling hyper-local issues from neighborhood safety to equitable access to opportunities through partnerships for better learning. 

"These awardees illustrate the power of joint school and community action to enable students to learn and thrive. They are beacons in the growing community schools field that are strengthening public schools across our nation," says Martin Blank, Director of the Coalition for Community Schools.
Each winner demonstrates how public schools can become community hubs that lead to college, career, and civic ready students, strong families, and healthy communities. The awardees are:

  •      NYC Community Schools Initiative, New York City is led by the NYC Department of Education and calls for all public agencies and community based groups that interact with young people and their families to organize themselves around the city's 150 community schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina have taken active roles in ensuring that community schools are a major education priority. The initiative is supported by an Advisory Board of key stakeholders such as the United Federation of Teachers, community organizing groups, foundations, businesses, health providers, and others. As a result, NYC community schools have seen a 7.2% reduction in chronic absenteeism, a 1.8% increase in math, and a 5.7% increase in English language in the past year.

"Equity and Excellence is about evening the playing field for our students, and Community Schools help to do just that. To reach success in their classes, our students often require some extra support outside the classroom. The Community Schools initiative allows us to provide additional after school activities, mental health counseling, enhanced family engagement, and so much more. I am grateful for this recognition, and commend the hard work of New York City educators who are delivering for students and families." NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

  •    Community Achieves, Nashville is an initiative of 23 schools serving more than 17,000 students that identifies, recruits and coordinates organizations to support the needs of students and their families. Community Achieves partners with organizations like the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce adding to district's nearly 600 external programs, supports and partnerships working in Community Achieves schools. Sixteen thousand students are being served in programs focusing on health and wellness; more than 2,100 students took advantage of college and career readiness opportunities last school year; and scholarship funds offered have doubled to almost $16 million.

"Through the work of Community Achieves, our amazing faculty, and partnerships, our students gain experiences and opportunities that are invaluable." Justin Uppinghouse, Principal, Whitsitt Elementary School

  •   Enlace Chicago, Chicago is a community development organization that gives children and youth safe places to play and learn. Enlace leads eight community schools in a predominantly immigrant, low-income neighborhood on the city's west side. Enlace is responsible for organizing a 19-day hunger strike, which led to the construction of a multiplex of four individual high schools in the neighborhood. Enlace's partnerships provide each school with roughly $100,000 worth of programs and services. The organization's emphasis on collecting and using data to meet students' and families' needs further strengthens its ability to drive positive changes in their community.

"The schools are the hubs where families go and try to find answers and solutions for many issues, [and] also where families bring their assets and their skills and their capacity." Katya Nuques, Executive Director, Enlace Chicago 

  •   Oakland International High School (OIHS), Oakland  is part of the International Network of Public Schools where 100% of their students are recently-arrived immigrants from 33 countries, who speak over 30 languages. Students at OIHS receive a range of academic, legal, health, and social emotional services designed specifically to support immigrant youth and families. In addition, OIHS values the lived experience of students. All staff members participate in a day of professional development called "Community Walks" in which students plan a series of learning activities including visiting important institutions in their community (e.g., mosques, cultural centers, legal aid centers, and refugee support organizations) in order to provide staff with better insight into how to support immigrants.  

"Our school is a place where students can have a voice. Community Walks engage students in authentic learning and teaching experiences that enrich all members of our community." Lauren Markham, Community School Manager, Oakland International High School

  •    ·    Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School, Nashville is a Metro Nashville Public School committed to removing learning barriers by serving the whole child and whole family through "Academic Press and Personalization." Situated at the center of two homeless shelters and five housing developments, Pearl-Cohn has strategically focused its efforts in the following areas: Restorative Practices, Social-Emotional Learning, and Trauma-Informed Care. As part of the Community Achieves initiative, Pearl-Cohn aligns their 36 community partnerships around four pillars: Family Engagement, College and Career Readiness, Health and Wellness, and Social Services. As a result, Pearl-Cohn has seen a 68% reduction in discipline infractions, has fewer than 1% student expulsions, a 5% decrease in chronic absences, and a 41% reduction in mobility rate. Improvements in school culture and academic indicators have helped the school go from the lowest performing high school in Metro Nashville Public Schools to a student growth level of 5, indicating MORE than two years of academic growth measured by the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.

    "I don't think you can do school without this model when you're looking to care for the whole child and the whole family." Dr. Sonia Stewart, Principal, Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School

"I don't think you can do school without this [community school] model when you're looking to care for the whole child and the whole family." Dr. Sonia Stewart, Principal, Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School

?     P.S./M.S. 188 The Island School, New York City is located on Manhattan's Lower East Side and serves 451 students, most of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and live in public housing or homeless shelters. P.S./M.S. 188 partners focus on trauma-informed practices and provide case management, legal services, employment services, and financial and nutrition classes. Students taking the New York State Standardized English Language Arts/Math test results are meeting state standards, scoring a Level 3 over a three-year period. In 2016, the NYC Department of Education recognized this achievement with a rating of excellent in both "Growth on Tests" and "Closing the Achievement Gap".

"The successes at P.S./M.S. 188 The Island School demonstrates the effectiveness of the community school strategy. These supports, have enabled us to provide more targeted and intensive services making the critical difference for students and families." Suany Ramos, Principal, P.S./M.S. 188 The Island School
Together, these school and initiative awardees represent a growing number of community schools that are leading the way by becoming hubs of their neighborhoods-uniting families, educators, and community partners to provide all students with top-quality academics, enrichment, health and social services, and opportunities to succeed in school and life.
To learn about the National Community Schools Awards for Excellence, please visit

About the Coalition for Community Schools
The Coalition for Community Schools, housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), is an alliance of national, state and local organizations in education K-16, youth development, community planning and development, higher education, family support, health and human services, government, and philanthropy as well as national, state, and local community school networks. The Coalition advocates for community schools as a strategy to leverage local resources and programs, changing the look and feel of the traditional school structure to best meet the needs of children and families in the 21st century.

About the Institute for Educational Leadership
For a half-century, the Institute for Educational Leadership has championed the need for leaders at all levels to shake off their institutional constraints and work across boundaries to address the needs of young people and their families. Bound by no constituency, IEL serves as a catalyst that helps policymakers, administrators, and practitioners at all levels to bridge bureaucratic silos and undo gridlock to improve outcomes for all young people and their families. The work of IEL focuses on three pillars required for young people and their communities to succeed: involving the broader community with public education to support the learning and development of young people; building more effective pathways into the workforce for all young people and supporting the transition to adulthood; and preparing generations of leaders with the know-how to drive collaborative efforts at all levels. 

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