This month I delivered two presentations on community schools at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in Vancouver, B.C. The AERA meeting is the largest convening of education researchers from around the globe. I was very excited that AERA accepted two community school papers we submitted. I was especially pleased that an entire session on community schools was accepted for the Family, School, Community Partnerships division. Getting a paper accepted is rare since so many researchers submit proposals. I think our acceptance signifies that researchers and others are paying increasing attention to the growing community schools strategy.
We organized a well-attended symposium on community schools research titled, “Community Schools: Collective Trust, Collective Action, and Collective Impact.” We wanted participants to get a sense of the theory behind community schools, how they are organized, and their impact. I was glad to be joined by colleagues that have spent a number of years researching community schools. Sebastian Castrechini from the John W. Gardner Center at Stanford University presented “Community Schools as Ecological Systems: A Theoretical Framework,” a paper he co-authored with colleague Rebecca London. I then presented a paper on how systems of community schools are organized based on site visits to Tulsa, Evansville, Portland, and Cincinnati as well as a survey of 17 community school initiatives. The paper was titled, “Community Schools: Structures and Cultures for Collective Action.” Dr. Curt Adams from the University of Oklahoma presented a paper on his excellent research on the impact of the Tulsa Area Community Schools Initiative (TACSI) titled, “The Community School Effect.” Allan Porowski from ICF International presented a paper on the impact of the Communities in Schools model based on a series of studies spanning 10 years in his paper titled, “A National Perspective on Collective Impact: Methods and Results from the Communities in Schools National Evaluation” (watch Allan promote our symposium here). Finally, Dr. John Rogers from UCLA provided comments on the presentations and thoughts on the current state of the community school movement. Rogers wrote a paper in 1998 that analyzed the community school movement over the past 100 years and provided excellent perspective on the significance of these papers and the work being done in the field.
I also presented a paper on community school systems’ efforts to connect early childhood and schools in a paper titled “A Collaborative Approach to Achieving Ready Schools and Ready Students.” This paper was part of a symposium organized by some of our national partners titled “A Cross-Case Analysis of Preschool Through Third Grade (P–3) Alignment: Effective Practices and Policies at State, District, Municipal, and School Levels.”
Finally, Adeline Ray from the Chicago Public Schools Community Schools Initiative and her colleagues presented a paper titled, “Development of a Framework and Accompanying Rubric to Assess Community School Implementation and Sustainability Processes.”
It was clear from my conversation with researchers and the questions we received at the symposia that the academy is interested in studying education reform strategies beyond accountability and teacher evaluation. In short, they were interested in community schools and recognize it as a strategy that is gaining steam. I encourage all of you to reach out to your local colleges and universities and ask them to study your work, to help you improve your strategies, and to communicate your success (and challenges) to the broader education field.
For more information on the reports, contact Reuben Jacobson at jacobsonr[at]iel.org