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Washington University in St. Louis and Brittany Woods Middle School (University City, Missouri)

Two years ago, leaders from community organizations, the University City school district, Washington University, and Brittany Woods Middle School sat down to figure out how a full-service school would look in University City. The group plugged into the Children’s Aid Society’s National Center for Community Schools and visited several school sites for inspiration.
 
The group tailored a community school strategy to fit neatly into the middle school’s mission of providing expanded learning opportunities and engaged instruction for its students.
 
"Community schools are a great way to improve public education and the outcomes for our children and the community," said Brittany Woods principal Jaime Jordan said.  
 
Curriculum and instruction specialists from Washington University’s Institute for School Partnership meet weekly with teachers, providing systemically embedded professional development for Brittany Woods teachers.  For example, curriculum and instruction specialists connected social studies teachers at Brittany Woods to Washington University’s "Eyes on the Prize" archives and the local public television network to help teachers develop a video assignment for their students to increase interest in the study of social justice.
 
The Institute for School Partnership also provides community and school liaisons that meet with families and community members to coordinate after-school tutoring and mentorship programs.
Brittany Woods’ Community School leadership team, which is called the Elev8 Committee, is working closely with the Manager of Urban Education Initiatives from Washington University’s Brown School. Brown School practicum students facilitate social development activities from the nationally recognized Wyman Center’s teen outreach and leadership programs. The committee, comprised of parents, community residents, and school staff, connects the school to various health and social organizations that can address the needs of students and their families.
 
Brittany Woods’ relationship with Washington University has allowed the middle school to take advantage of other resources on the university’s campus. Brittany Woods students have taken field trips to Edison Theatre to see performances such as Ballet Hispanico and Jackie and Me. These field trips include specific educational activities on the university’s campus connected to the performances - such as learning cultural dances and performing spoken word poetry. Washington University’s Olin School of Business, as well as faculty and students in arts, engineering, and chemistry, have reached out to Brittany Woods students.
 
More than a dozen community organizations are partners in the community school initiative at Brittany Woods.
 
School personnel have conducted more than 40 home visits and the school has seen a significant increase in the number of parents attending parent-teacher conferences and other events at the school.
 
Before the implementation of the community school strategy, no students were attending non-athletic after-school programs. This year, more than 240 students are involved in non-sports extracurricular activities. Attendance is up, as are math and communication arts scores. Four years ago, the school had nearly 1,000 behavioral referrals. This year, that number has been cut in half thanks to the community efforts in the school.
 

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