NYSSBA Report: Community Schools Level The Playing Field

Nov 29, 2016

A new research report by the New York State School Boards Association says community schools can help students overcome the adverse effects of poverty and other obstacles to academic success.

A "community school" acts as a local hub that not only educates children through traditional academics but provides a variety of programs and services that may include health, dental and mental health care, nutrition information, career development services, academic enrichment and parental engagement initiatives.

David Albert is spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association:   "Typically, there's no 'one size fits all' for a community school because they're very dependent upon the community in which they reside. And often, a community school is able to provide these services by partnering with one or more locally-based community organizations.

The report, entitled "Community Schools: The Great Equalizer," offers an in-depth view of community schools, including a look at life inside two.  "One of the schools that we visited for the report is in Troy and another is in New York City, on the lower East Side.  We had a research analyst actually go to both schools and spend some time, in the schools, meeting people and kind of understanding the school environment and what community schools do."

The report finds the additional services offered by community schools appear to be making a difference. Students at both schools showed gains in English language arts and math proficiency from 2014 to 2016. The report points out that previous studies have shown that community schools can also improve non-academic indicators – such as improved attendance and reduced suspensions.

The report also mentions lawmakers allocated $75 million in grant funding in the state budget to convert struggling and persistently struggling schools into community schools, while noting the importance of each school obtaining multiple funding sources.   "Often times we hear that the state can provide some additional funding to help a school convert to a community school, but then what happens when the state funding goes away? What happens if it's a grant, for example, and the grant is, basically, dries up. Well. Our research found that, in order to sustain a community school over long term, you cannot rely on just one funding source. You have to have a diversity of funding streams, and we list some of the streams you could use in addition to state funds, obviously, there's local funds. There are federal dollars that could be used.  Funding from community-based organizations, foundations, municipalities, cities, businesses..."

The report concludes that it takes at least five years for any school reform effort to gain traction.