“Making every school a community school has to be our collective vision. This has to be the rule rather than the exception.”
As a strategy for organizing school and community resources around student success, community schools require knowledge of each specific local context. The NCCS team works with colleagues in each site to understand their strengths and challenges, including their political and economic circumstances, in order to provide customized implementation assistance—including consultation, training, strategic planning facilitation and sustainability advice—designed to build their local capacity to implement the community schools strategy at both the school site and systems levels.
A unique feature of our work is our practice base—we understand the joys and challenges of implementing the community schools strategy because we actually operate community schools in New York City, in partnership with our Department of Education. This real-world experience allows us to host study visits, develop and test planning tools, showcase best practices, conduct sustainability institutes and support continuous improvement as schools and systems move through the stages of development from exploring to excelling.
Our basic guidebooks on building community schools would qualify as best sellers—except that we distribute them free in order to advance work across the field. In addition, we commissioned a landmark study on the social return on investment of community schools. We regularly contribute articles to professional journals and books; host at least one national community schools conference each year; publish a monthly e-newsletter on community school innovations; and use social media to reach diverse audiences.
Knowing that supportive public and social policies can advance our vision of every school a community school, NCCS partners with colleagues at the city, state and national levels to educate policymakers about the core components and results of this research-based strategy. We also help colleagues craft local policies that can be presented to their boards of education; and we frequently host study visits to our New York City community schools for delegations of elected officials from other cities and countries.
“The community schools strategy has always made a lot of sense to me. My late wife, Judy, was an early childhood educator and I learned from her how important parental engagement and strong support services are to helping our children succeed in school.”
“Evaluations back up the anecdotes of accomplishment… This research record makes the Children’s Aid Society exhibit #1 in the case for community schools nationwide.”
From Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children’s Lives and America’s Future