What's Informing Our Thinking

Strengthening Families, Communities and Schools to Support Children’s Development: Neighborhoods of Promise

Edited by Edmund W. Gordon, Betina Jean-Louis, and Nkechi Obiora
New York, NY, Routledge, 2018

This excellent edited volume describes an array of effective strategies designed to improve educational outcomes for students living in distressed urban and rural neighborhoods. The authors share a deep understanding that the disparities in educational achievement between white and non-white students can be addressed only by employing a holistic approach—one that takes into account the communities in which schools are situated and the families that live in those communities.

Of the many national thought leaders who contributed chapters to this book, probably none is more revered that Edmund S. Gordon, a nonagenarian whose ground-breaking work on the importance of comprehensive (or supplementary) education has influenced the community schools movement as well as the after-school, Promise Neighborhoods, and collective impact fields of practice. Gordon describes comprehensive education as “the formal and informal learning and developmental enrichment opportunities provided for students outside of school and beyond the regular school day or year,” including their families and neighborhoods. In his compelling foreword, Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada observes that “we don’t have to test the ‘theory’ of the comprehensive, birth-through-college approach of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The approach is already being used to help millions of children all across America—outside of Harlem, though, it is called middle class life.”

Equity, then, is on the minds of all of the book’s contributors as they describe multiple intervention points for promoting children’s learning and healthy development—including communities (Angela Glover Blackwell), families, (Emily Campbell and Edmund W. Gordon), and the Black Church (Carey Latimore). Schools as an institution warrant three separate chapters: one by Eleanor Armour-Thomas on the special role of schooling in the development of the academic ability of children and youth; another by Carol Bonilla Bowman and Edmund W. Gordon on the Eagle Academy for Young Men; and a third by NCCS Director Jane Quinn on community schools as a strategy for organizing school and community resources around student success.

Anderson J. Franklin summarizes the book’s main themes in his thoughtful afterword: The achievement gap spotlights the persistence of inequities in education for students of color and conveys how much a focus upon restructuring school time experiences is insufficient to resolve this dilemma. Oversubscribing that responsibility to the school system has not worked. Consequently, there is a need to broaden our perspectives about interventions to solve this dilemma.