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Struggling Missouri Schools Find Answers In Their Backyard


The Kansas City Star recently published an article outlining the difficulties schools are facing in improving student outcomes through the marginally-successful reform efforts of the last decade. It states the goal of reform efforts: "You do everything you have to do for…one student and for all [struggling students]". But it also asks, "How?" Across the nation, many communities utilizing the community school strategy to face similar challenges. And Missourians don’t have to look far to see this truth in action: The Local Investment Commission has helped establish over 20 in Kansas City alone.

Community schools provide the answers to many of the issues posed in this article by Joe Robertson. Robertson participated in tours of several Missouri schools working to improve outcomes with the nascent "turnaround" reform method. The federal monies dedicated to these reforms is targeted to improve the lowest-achieving 5% of schools; while there have certainly been successes, they have been "isolated". What’s going on? Schools are struggling to address the needs of their poorest students, who make up the majority population of most turnaround schools, and whose disparities on test scores are the result of a much more complex matrix of inequity. Ultimately, Robertson reveals, "The fact that the turnaround schools, both in Missouri and across the nation, correlate with high poverty has refueled the debate about how much successful reform must attack pressures outside the classroom."

Community school advocates and leaders across the nation would agree with Robertson: successful reform absolutely must address non-school factors. Turnaround schools and others struggling to improve student outcomes in Missouri can learn a lot from their community school neighbors- the Local Investment Commission (LINC). LINC is a Coalition partner, and through their Caring Communities initiative, community schools have flourished across the state, with sixty-three schools to date. The cornerstone of the community school philosophy is precisely what Robertson proposes in his article: doing everything that can be done to ensure each individual student has what he or she needs to succeed in school. Adequate health care, getting enough to eat, adult role models to inspire and encourage: these non-school factors, so often overlooked in the mainstream reform movement, are the basic tenets of a community school.

To read Robertson’s article, click here.

To find out more about LINC, click here.

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