Housed in Washington D.C., a classic tourist town, IEL doesn’t compete with the double-decker tour buses. Rather, we organize something different: field trips to see schools and communities working together. One recent trip transported 25 Capitol Hill, executive branch and association staffers to Baltimore to learn about that city’s community school strategy and how it is driving outcomes for young people, families, and communities. Baltimore now boasts 46 community schools, with another 22 being renovated as community hubs through the first phase of a $1 billion state school construction bond.
The study tour highlighted the Family League of Baltimore, Baltimore City Public Schools, and Elev8 Baltimore. The Mayor of Baltimore has invested in community schools across the city. The Family League of Baltimore has melded its after school funding with the community school strategy. And, the school district is investing the state bond money to build new schools as community hubs.
Capitol Hill and national executive branch staff were inspired by the school-community coordination and strong results-based partnerships. They saw that community schools:
- require strong cross-sector relationships, innovative leaders, and intensive coordination between school and community leaders;
- address the challenges and barriers to learning that significantly impact student achievement (e.g. hunger, trauma, medical issues) in a strategic, intentional way; and,
- benefit from federal policy that incentivizes and supports this work and replicates the evidence-based practices in community schools that are changing outcomes for students and their families.
Noelle Ellerson (IEL EPFP 2009-10 alum), Associate Executive Director of Policy and Advocacy for the School Superintendents Association (AASA), said about the tour, “Day to day, we are entrenched in the policy and negotiations and numbers, and it was a welcome change of pace to see the policy in action and—most importantly—see how it works and how it is transforming not just students but full communities. Days and experiences like that affirm the need of solid, proven policy and the work of organizations like ours and IEL.”
As they say in leadership-speak, it’s all about getting the right people on the bus-and in this case, on a bus to Baltimore.