Community Schools Forward

Partnering to Help Young People Thrive

Community schools transform a school into a place where educators, local community members, families, and students work together to strengthen conditions for student learning and healthy development.

As partners, they organize in- and out-of-school resources and opportunities so that young people thrive. The school community, led by a community school coordinator/manager, works to develop a vision and goals for the school, student and family well-being, and student learning.

There is a significant and growing interest in community schools among federal, state, and local governments seeking to advance educational and economic opportunities and address historic educational inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Building off this momentum, four national partners—the Children’s Aid National Center for Community Schools, Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, the Coalition for Community Schools at IEL, and the Learning Policy Institute—collaborated with education practitioners, researchers, and leaders across the United States to strengthen the community schools field in a joint project called Community Schools Forward.

Core Strategies


Foster increased cohesion around core community school concepts and frameworks.


Identify investment structures that sustain community schools at scale and for the long term.


Design infrastructure for technical assistance and professional learning that promotes high-quality implementation.

Aligning Policy and Practice

The Community Schools Forward resources help policymakers and practitioners align around a conception of community schools that addresses key questions: What are community schools? How do they work? What goals and outcomes are they working toward? The answers are found in Community Schools Forward resources to guide adoption and implementation. These resources were developed over the course of two years with extensive input from hundreds of practitioners, the CSF National Task Force of leaders from over 45 organizations related to community schools, and working groups. They draw from existing materials and the most up-to-date research on community schools and the science of learning and development.

CSF Resources

Essentials for Community School Transformation.  Framework developed to encompass all national community school frameworks examined by the Community Schools Forward project team.
(Framework in Spanish)  

Community Schools Forward Theory of Action.  The theory of action outlines the process of community school transformation as the school utilizes continuous improvement to work towards shared outcomes.  

Outcomes and Indicators: A Guide for Implementers and Evaluators. This document identifies impact areas, outcomes and measures for community school transformation.  

Community Schools Stages of Development. Community schools move through three stages; emerging, maturing and transforming as they develop and refine new systems for collaboration.

Community Schools Forward Technical Assistance Needs Assessment. This assessment was developed in response to interviews of practitioners nationally to identify key problems of practice in need of technical assistance at both the local and national level . 

Community Schools Costing Tool.  This tool was developed to gauge the cost of a community school, building on existing funding sources, and aimed at whole school transformation.

CSF Blogs and Commentary

Community-connected learning in community schools: why is essential for whole school transformation.  Explore examples of community connected learning within community schools & learn about best practices. 

Learning Policy Institutes Blog series on Community Schools. This blog series, Community Schools: A Path to Transformation, explores innovative practices, research, and the experiences of practitioners to elevate how community schools can transform education to better serve students, educators, and families.

Moving community schools forward with foundation resources.  This blog provides an overview of the community schools forward resources and the ways in which the initiative has aimed to align, build and scale community schools nationally.   

Stages of development in transforming schools into community schools.  This blog provides context to the updated community schools forward stages of development tool which has been an evolution of previous stages of development resources.  

Community schools can help superintendents transform education.  Commentary from and for superintendents of community schools.  

Community Schools in Utah’s Salt Lake City region thrive on place-based partnerships and family engagement.  This commentary explores key learnings from community school leaders in Salt Lake City.  

Past and future teachers ensure student success in rural appalachia.  Profile on the growth of community schools in rural Appalachia, highlighting the impact of federal funding and local organizing.  

The dynamism of teaching and learning in community schools. This blog highlights some of the ways community schools support teachers, teaching and learning.  

Greater Cincinnati’s community learning centers lead place-based learning and holistic neighborhood development.  This blog explores the improvements in Cincinnati since widespread community school adoption.  

Community schools in Idaho are bolstered by statewide networks and enriched learning opportunities  This commentary examines the ways in which the Idaho network has supported the growth of community schools.  

Chicago community schools show how long-term investments can yield lasting results.  This commentary explores the improvements in gpa and attendance, as well as decrease in disciplinary incidents in chicago community schools.  

3 states in the Deep South  are collaborating to advance community schools.  This blog shares the ways in which the NEA foundation is supporting the development of community schools in the south.  

Community-centered education in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  A case study sharing lessons Iowa’s BIG educational system of community schools  

Addressing educational inequality with the next generation of community schools: A blueprint for mayors, states and the federal government.  This is the initial report on the need for community schools that led to the development of the community schools forward task force.