Is this a Tried and True Alternative to Charter Schools?

Is there a tried and true alternative to the privately-controlled for-profit and non-profit charter schools? Yes. I previously blogged about community schools in the post California NAACP calls for the choice of community schools. I was honored to volunteer to be on the recent NEA taskforce to design a new policy statement about community schools. Here is the policy statement that passed at the NEA RA few days ago. There is occasionally some “confusingness” about the community schools model, so read the statement below for an outline of the model.

Policy Statement on Community Schools

Introduction

Consistent with NEA’s core values that “public education is the gateway to opportunity,” and that “all students have the human and civil right to a quality public education that develops their potential, independence, and character,” and recognizing that opportunity gaps in our society have resulted in an uneven and unjust public education system where some communities have public schools that provide “individuals with the skills and opportunities to be involved, informed, and engaged in our representative democracy” and some do not, NEA believes all schools should use research-backed school improvement strategies designed to support a racially just education system that ensures that all students and their families have the support needed to thrive and grow. The Community School Model (CSM) has a strong track record of closing opportunity gaps, supporting a culturally relevant and responsive climate, and causing signifcant and sustained school improvement. NEA supports the use of the Community Schools Model in public schools where the local staff and community are supportive.

Definitions:

Public Community Schools: Public community schools are both places and partnerships that bring together the school and community to provide a rigorous and engaging academic experience for students, enrichment activities to help students see positive futures, and services designed to remove barriers to learning. Students engage in real-world problem solving as part of their curriculum. Community schools involve and support families and residents in the public school community and organize the wealth of assets that all communities have to focus on our youth and strengthen families and communities. Public schools become centers of the community and are open to everyone.

Community School Model: Any public school can use the community school model, which is intended to be tailored to the specifc needs of an individual school’s students, staff, families, and community members. The community school model advanced by NEA is based on Six Pillars of Practice as implemented through four key mechanisms.

Stakeholder: Stakeholder refers to anyone who is invested in the welfare and success of a school and its students, including administrators, educators, students, parents, families, community members, local business leaders, and elected officials such as school board members, city councilors, and state representatives. Stakeholders may also be collective entities, such as local businesses, organizations, advocacy groups, committees, media outlets, and cultural institutions, in addition to organizations that represent specifc groups, such as associations, parent-teacher organizations, and associations representing superintendents, principals, school boards, or educators in specifc academic disciplines.

Partners: Partner refers to external organizations and individuals that form informal and formal relationships with a school that is using the Community School Model to fll strategy needs. These organizations can include local businesses, advocacy groups, educator associations, parent-teacher organizations, religious organizations, schools, universities, nonproft organizations, and other types of organizations that local stakeholders determine fill a strategic need.

The Six Pillars include:

  1. Strong and Proven Culturally Relevant Curriculum: Educators provide a rich and varied academic program allowing students to acquire both foundational and advanced knowledge and skills in many content areas. Students learn with challenging, culturally relevant materials that address their learning needs and expand their experience. They also learn how to analyze and understand the unique experiences and perspectives of others. The curriculum embraces all content areas including the arts, second languages, and physical education. Teachers and ESP are engaged in developing effective programs for language instruction for English learners and immigrant students. Rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate are offered. Learning and enrichment activities are provided before and after the regular school day, including sports, the arts, and homework assistance. The needs of parents and families are addressed through English-as-a-Second-Language classes, GED preparation, and job training programs.
  2. High-quality Teaching and Learning: Teachers are fully licensed, knowledgeable about their content, and skillful in their practice. Instructional time focuses on learning rather than testing. Individual student needs are identifed and learning opportunities are designed to address them. Higher-order thinking skills are at the core of instruction so that all students acquire problem solving, critical thinking, and reasoning skills. Educators work collaboratively to plan lessons, analyze student work, and adjust curriculum as required. Experienced educators work closely with novices as mentors, coaches, and “guides on the side,” sharing their knowledge and expertise. ESP members take part in professional learning experiences and are consulted and collaborate when plans to improve instruction are developed. Together, educators identify the methods and approaches that work and change those that do not meet student needs.
  3. Inclusive Leadership: Leadership teams with educators, the community school coordinator, and other school staff share the responsibility of school operations with the principal. This leadership team ensures that the community school strategy remains central in the decision-making process.
  4. Positive Behavior Practices (including restorative justice): Community school educators emphasize positive relationships and interactions and model these through their own behavior. Negative behaviors and truancy are acknowledged and addressed in ways that hold students accountable while showing them they are still valued members of the school community. All members or the faculty and staff are responsible for ensuring a climate where all students can learn. Restorative behavior practices such as peer mediation, community service, and post-confict resolution help students learn from their mistakes and foster positive, healthy school climates where respect and compassion are core principles. Zero-tolerance practices leading to suspension and expulsion are avoided.
  5. Family and Community Partnerships: Families, parents, caregivers, and community members are partners in creating dynamic, fexible community schools. Their engagement is not related to a specific project or program, but is on-going and extends beyond volunteerism to roles in decision making, governance, and advocacy. Both ESP and teachers are part of developing family engagement strategies, and they are supported through professional learning opportunities. Their voices are critical to articulating and achieving the school’s overall mission and goals. When families and educators work together, students are more engaged learners who earn higher grades and enroll in more challenging classes; student attendance and grade and school completion rates improve.
  6. Coordinated and Integrated Wraparound Supports (community support services): Community school educators recognize that students often come to school with challenges that impact their ability to learn, explore, and develop in the classroom. Because learning does not happen in isolation, community schools provide meals, health care, mental health counseling, and other services before, during, and after school. Staff members support the identification of services that children need. These wraparound services are integrated into the fabric of the school that follows the Whole Child tenets. Connections to the community are critically important, so support services and referrals are available for families and other community members.

Public Community School Implementation: Implementation of the Community Schools Model requires that dedicated staff and structures use proven implementation mechanisms.

  1. Community School Coordinator: Every community school should have a community school coordinator that plays a leadership role at the school, is a member of the school leadership team, and is a full-time staff member. The CSC has training and specialized skills that supports building and managing partnerships in diverse communities, creating and coordinating an integrated network of services for students and their families, and optimizing both internal and external resources. The CSC connects students and their families with services in the community.
  2. Needs and Asset Assessment: The foundation for the community school model is a school-based needs and asset assessment that assesses including academic, social, and emotional needs and assets (including staff expertise and community supports of the school and surrounding community). The needs and asset assessment, facilitated by the CSC, is an inclusive process in which families, students, community members, partners, teachers, ESP, administrators, and other school staff defne their needs and assets. Problem-solving teams are established based on the needs determined in the needs and asset assessment.
  3. School Stakeholder Problem-solving Teams: Every community school should have teams of school staff and community stakeholders (families, parents) dedicated to solving problems that are identifed in the needs and asset assessment. The solutions identifed by the stakeholder problem-solving teams change the way things are done in and outside of school hours and, at times, involve partnerships with outside organizations and individuals.
  4. Community School Stakeholder Committee: The community school stakeholder committee (CSSC) coordinates between school staff, partners (organizations, businesses, town and city service providers), and stakeholders to ensure goals are achieved and obstacles are surmounted. The CSSC, which includes families, community partners, school staff, students, and other stakeholders from the school’s various constituencies, works in collaboration with the school leadership team and supports coordination across and among community schools within a school district.

The Role of the Association in Advancing the Community School Model

Awareness. NEA believes that there must be increased awareness among its members and the public about the large body of evidence that demonstrates the effcacy of the Community School Model in supporting racial justice in education and closing opportunity gaps to achieve measurable school improvement gains. NEA encourages schools and districts to use the community school model.

Advocacy. NEA has a responsibility to advocate for community school policies and procedures, legislation, and practices that will result in school improvement gains. As educators, NEA is in the best position to advance the adoption of community school policies.

There were a few amendments to the the statement designed by the taskforce, many of them were suggested by the the BAT teachers at the RA.

A1. Proposed Policy Statement on Community Schools

Amendment A-1

Amend page 5, lines 38 and 45 by addition:

Stakeholders may also be collective entities, such as local businesses, local unions, organizations, advocacy groups, committees, media outlets, and cultural institutions, in addition to organizations that represent specific groups, such as associations, parent-teacher organizations, and associations representing superintendents, principals, school boards, or educators in specific academic disciplines.

These organizations can include local businesses, local unions, advocacy groups, educator associations, parent-teacher organizations, religious organizations, schools, universities, nonprofit organizations, and other types of organizations that local stakeholders determine fill a strategic need.

A2. Proposed Policy Statement On Community Schools

Amendment A-2

Amend page 7, line 38 by addition:

Contract Integrity. NEA should ensure that decisions made by collaborative bodies do not abrogate the contractual protections of any NEA member.

A3. Proposed Policy Statement on Community Schools

Amendment A-3
Amend page 5, line 47 by addition:

These organizations can include local businesses, local unions, advocacy groups, educator associations, parent-teacher organizations, religious organizations, schools, universities, nonprofit organizations, and other types of organizations that local stakeholders determine fill a strategic need and that align with NEA values.

A4. Proposed Policy Statement on Community Schools

Amendment A-4

Amend page 6, line 28 by deletion:

Negative behaviors and truancy are acknowledged and addressed in ways that hold students accountable while showing them they are still valued members of the school community.

A5. Proposed Policy Statement on Community Schools

Amendment A-5

Amend page 6, line 14 by addition:

Instructional time focuses on learning rather than testing and on the use of authentic assessment over high-stakes testing.

A6. Proposed Policy Statement on Community Schools

Amendment A-6

Amend on page 6, line 14 by addition:

Teachers are fully licensed, knowledgeable about their content, and skillful in their practice. Programs to hire, recruit, and maintain educational staff should focus on recruitment from surrounding communities and should strive for ratios that reflect student demographics. Instructional time focuses on learning rather than testing.

A7. Proposed Policy Statement on Community Schools

Amendment A-7

Amend on page 6, line 13 by addition:

Teachers are fully licensed, meet the highest standards that are established, maintained, and governed by members of the profession, knowledgeable about their content, and skillful in their practice.

A8. Proposed Policy Statement on Community Schools

Amendment A-8

Amend on page 5, line 45 by addition:

…can include local businesses, particularly locally owned businesses, advocacy groups, educator associations, parent-teacher organizations, religious organizations,…

Also, a shout out the community-based schools on the campus of Hawkins in Los Angeles. I recently had the opportunity to visit and came away impressed with their community-based efforts.

So let’s get to work and support community schools nationwide as an alternative to privately-controlled for-profit and non-profit charter schools.

 

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4 comments

  • Pingback: Is the Co-Location of Charters inside Neighborhood Schools a Problem? | Cloaking Inequity

  • Jill Reifschneider

    I would like to see a limit in class size added to these specs.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Nothing about class size? I’m disappointed that one of the few proven ways to narrow the achievement gap is not mentioned here. How can you meet students’’ Individual needs without smaller classes than exist in most urban and/ orhigh poverty districts?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Another issue is defining what has to be included in “wrap around services”. Does that include feeding any student that is hungry? Will that factor be minimum standard for wrap around services? What else would have to be included in the definition as a minimum?

      Finally, another pet issue of mine is implement of the Brown decision that determined that “separate is not equal” when our housing financed by the government for 60 years left us teaching in housing suburbs apartheid neighborhood schools as well as segregated urban neighborhoods. I just don’t see community schools discussion inclusive of integration, a situation that protects the status quo of white supremacy.

      Like

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