The first theme involves how to collect leading, lagging, and process indicators to measure community school success. How can we consider indicators that go beyond test scores – indicators that consider how community schools create the conditions for learning? We should pay special attention to non-academic factors such as attendance, health, and wellness, as well as the social/emotional benefits of community schools, including how they are impacting trauma and healing. We acknowledge that there may be a window of greater receptivity to a more diverse set of outcomes in the COVID-19 context. Finally, we must consider new ways to communicate the evidence of success in academic learning. We should approach academic metrics through a lens of developmental science, and include comparison groups selected in ways that control for student composition and neighborhood context among other factors.
In addition to school and student-level outcomes, we should examine the impact of the community school strategy on the entire community, such as housing stability and health outcomes. For example, how can community schools be a hyper-local economic and community development strategy to break intergenerational poverty by investing in revitalization? How does access to adult and family services through the community schools model, such as career and adult education opportunities, improve family economic mobility? Community health and neighborhood-level indicators are important to consider. At the school level, what is the impact of the community school framework on school staffing quality, stability, and diversity?
Lastly, there is a need for more longitudinal and community-based participatory evaluation and research frameworks. Ongoing, multi-year research and evaluation could follow students from elementary school throughout their postsecondary experiences, focusing on how the community school strategy impacts student postsecondary enrollment, persistence, attainment, and career outcomes. Potential research questions include the role of non-academic factors, such as health and wellness, on longitudinal student success. Moreover, in the course of a community school’s development, it is important to better understand the expected impacts at different phases of implementation. Outcomes could be understood in light of the length of time and stage of development of a community school. We acknowledge that longitudinal research is critical for effective advocacy, but such research requires a long-term commitment, raising practical considerations of sustainability and stability.