Education Week - July 19, 2017 - 14
'Community Schools' Has Mixed Effect on Achievement
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Photos by Mark Abramson for Education Week
incorporate the features of community schools in their plans required
by the new federal education law,
the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Pennsylvania, for example, intends to allow districts to use a
community-schools approach to
tackle the problem of chronic absenteeism, to increase the roles
that parents play in schools, and to
address students' social and emotional needs, said Pedro Rivera, the
state's education secretary.
"We know that in today's society,
our children ..., regardless of class,
come to our institutions with various needs," Rivera said. "When properly implemented and supported,
community schools will again allow
schools to be the nucleus or the hub
of their communities."
Whether community schools initiatives will continue to gather momentum is unclear.
President Donald Trump's proposed federal budget threatens to
slash several funding streams that
districts, communities, and nonprofit partners use to fund community schools and whole-child initiatives. But a House budget proposal
released last week indicated that
Congress may preserve spending
for some of those programs.
And the research on whether a
community-schools strategy is an
effective way to increase student
achievement paints a complicated,
sometimes contradictory, picture.
FROM TOP: Students at P.S. 188
in New York help clean up their
classroom before the last day
of the school year. The school
provides an on-site nurse
practitioner, mental health
counseling, and other services
meant to make it a hub for
students and families in the
Benefits for Attendance
An independent study released
earlier this year on the Communities in Schools program, one of
the country's largest whole-child
initiatives that focuses on dropout
prevention, found that while ontime graduation rates rose and the
numbers of dropouts decreased in
schools with the program, comparison schools also saw their graduation rates go up.
Attendance was higher in elementary schools in the program than
in a comparison group of schools,
according to the study by MDRC,
which looked at select schools in
Texas and North Carolina.
Test scores improved at both Communities in Schools sites and the
comparison schools at the elementary and high school levels. But at
the middle school level, state test
scores did not improve at those sites,
although they did at the comparison
But Linda Darling-Hammond,
a longtime education scholar and
president of the left-leaning Learning Policy Institute, said there is evidence that the strategy can be used
to improve schools.
What matters, more often than
not, is the implementation, she said.
Schools that use the approach
said, know the specific needs of
their community and tailor services to meet those and forge
strong relationships with families
In a recent report by the National
Students at P.S. 188 in
New York socialize on the
playground. It will be one of
more than 200 schools in the
city that work with community
organizations to blunt the
impacts of poverty.
Education Policy Center and the
Learning Policy Institute, researchers analyzed more than 125 studies
and research reviews on community
schools, and found test score gains
showed up in years three, four, and
five, she said.
In the shorter term, researchers saw improvement in students'
health, attentiveness, and behavior,
"Whenever you do major structural reforms, if you are successful,
the first thing that will respond is
attendance," she said. "And then
you will see increases in kids ...
coming to school, staying in school,
graduating, which actually has a
much bigger effect on their laterlife outcomes than test scores."
Though addressing the needs that
poor students face outside of school
is important, improving the quality
of instruction is the most essential
part of making schools better, said
Paul Reville, who runs the Education Redesign Lab at the Harvard
Graduate School of Education.
"I'd hate to see [community
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | July 19, 2017 | www.edweek.org
schools] undermined by having unrealistic expectations of it being a
short-term silver bullet to bringing
about success in these schools," Reville said.
"It's one piece of a comprehensive
strategy for turning around chronically underperforming schools."
In New York City, schools like P.S.
123 are in a special category of community schools-a multi-million
dollar initiative called "renewal
schools" aimed at staving off a state
takeover or shutdown of campuses
that had lagged academically for
Buoyed by some of the results
in the wider community schools'
program, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in May that he will expand the number of participating
schools in the fall to 215, increasing the scale of the program to one
previously unseen in the country.
The schools will serve about
100,000 students, far more students
than most school districts in the
But some critics say de Blasio's
embrace of the community schools
approach is troubling, since the
academic improvements so far have
been modest at best.
English/language arts and math
proficiency rates rose by 5.7 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively,
from the 2014-15 school year to
the 2015-16 school year, according
to city data.
Graduation rates for students
in community schools averaged a
4.7 percent increase year over year.
Chronic absenteeism declined by
3.5 percent in community schools,
compared to a little over 1 percent
To the city's education leaders, those statistics point to real
"We are targeting really highneed schools that are in neighborhoods with entrenched poverty,
so the numbers are not where we
want them to be. But we have been
pleased with the growth early on,"
said Chris Caruso, the executive
director of New York City's community schools program.
"A lot of this is about changing
New York City Chancellor Carmen Fariña stressed that community schools are one of many
strategies the district is using to
improve schools, and that they offer
parents, students, and teachers key
advantages. GED and English-as-asecond-language classes for adults
help parents participate in their
The schools provide mental
health counselors and other staff
from community-based organizations, which frees up teachers and