By Daniel Rehor and Danna Khabbaz, interns at the Institute for Educational Leadership
People who understand that children’s academic success is influenced by elements both inside and outside the classroom seem to know that partnerships and coalition-building are the best solutions to addressing these elements but can’t quite seem to articulate the exact strategy for implementing them. Well, the term for that strategy is “community schools.”
A series of Capitol Hill briefings honoring Black History Month and entitled “Helping the Poor and Maintaining the Middle Class” addressed the challenges facing low-income citizens that deter socio-economic mobility within the United States. The presenters understood that education is crucial to socio-economic mobility and that when children have access to certain key support structures in their environment, their academic success improves.
In the words of Dr. William C. Bell of the Casey Family Program, “Place matters.” Dr. Bell, who spoke at one briefing, understood that schools are incredibly influential in the success of children, but academic buildings constitute just one community element influencing children’s success.
Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller spoke about the U.S. Department of Education’s current goals and agenda. What stuck out was Miller’s admission that promoting education cannot remain the sole job of education leaders but must receive support from all leaders. A holistic support system that promotes student success from many angles, engaging all avenues to do so, will yield the largest benefits for children.
Other presenters spoke about efforts to encourage local enterprise investment, much like the Chicago Community Loan Fund. David Pope, President of the Village of Oak Park in Illinois, urged other town leaders to foster environments for economic success, not just within their own neighborhoods but also for their entire region. Glenn Martin of the Fortune Society addressed the need to invest in academic opportunities for the incarcerated so they don’t simply slip back into old habits in their old communities.
All of the speakers promoted a multifaceted approach to neighborhood development and urged this approach as a means for promoting the economic success of its’ citizens. Community schools address exactly these goals and in the process foster rich learning experiences that help children achieve academically, which ultimately impacts the long-term economic success of a neighborhood.
The presentations’ themes align with the values of the Coalition for Community Schools. In order to strengthen our shared message of mobilizing and aligning communities’ resources to promote the opportunities and success of their citizens, it would be most effective to use similar language when describing our efforts. Conversations that address neighborhoods’ improvement and empowerment plans ought to include the term “community school.”
Daniel Rehor is a graduating senior at SUNY-Brockport
Danna Khabbaz is a graduating senior at Georgetown University