Response to Ed Sector Post in Re: to the National Journal debate on community/parent involvement
Community schools are the strategy for shared governance and accountability between schools and community partners. Rob Manwaring says that a “framework for shared governance and accountability when there are community partnerships” is missing from the debate about community and parent involvement. He suggests that in the Harlem Children’s Zone, Geoffrey Canada is the governance and accountability structure. But in community schools initiatives, which can be found in a numerous communities around the country, structures for shared governance and accountability drive the work of the school and its partners. In Cincinnati, where there is major community schools (community learning centers initiatives) there is a cross-sector steering committee including leadership from the school district, United Way, community foundation and other institutions; Activities and programs at each Community Learning Center (CLC)are each governed by Local School Decision Making Committees, comprised of parents, business and community leaders, and school staff. CLCs develop a result-based framework that guides partnerships and activities. In Multnomah County Oregon which includes Portland, a Coordinating Council governs the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods Initiative. Chaired by staff of the Chair of the County Commission, the Council includes state, school district and non-profit leaders.
In these and other places leaders are developing results-based accountability frameworks that cut across academic, physical, social and emotional factors for students and include indicators related to families and community well-being as well. They are using these frameworks to make both the school and community partners accountable for shared results.
We recommend that Secretary Duncan and Congress help educators, communities and parents turn around schools by providing incentives for the kinds of cross-institutional governance structures and accountability arrangements modeled by community schools initiatives. Community schools are the structure, the vehicle, for capitalizing on community and parent engagement to improve outcomes for students.