In an effort to improve public education, many mayors, including New York City Mayor Di Blasio, have converted inner city schools into “community schools.” This is the first time I’ve heard about community schools and now I feel much better about the future of education in the U.S.
A community school, according to an August 7, 2016 NY Times article by David L. Kiro, is, ” … both a place and a set of partnerships with local organizations intending to deliver health, social and recreational supports for students and their families. The idea of a school that serves as a neighborhood hub holds wide appeal.”
In poor neighborhoods, it apparently takes a village to educate a child. It’s almost impossible for kids to learn when they are dealing with health problems, ranging from hunger to vision problems to chronic asthma, learning problems, psychological issues or even major trauma at home. These programs address the needs of the whole child. They create an atmosphere in which kids can learn and mature into responsible adults. To that end, community schools provide breakfast and an in-house clinic to provide medical, dental and psychological services. There is also a staff of social workers to train teachers how to counsel their students and give them the emotional advice and support they need.
The success rates for community schools has been awesome. In one school in New York City, kids entered 9th grade reading at a 3rd grade level, 25% of the students were classified as special needs and 20% were learning English as a second language. Nevertheless, compared to other demographically similar schools, this school’s rate of absenteeism dropped 15.4% and the graduation rate went up 8% in two years. These rates are now close to the citywide average.
In other states the statistics are just as impressive. For example, in Massachusetts, one group of community schools managed to erase 2/3 of the math gap and ½ of the English gap between their schools and the statewide average. In addition, their drop-out rate was cut in half.
You might be thinking that these programs must cost a fortune and put a real burden on state and local governments. However, studies show that these programs more than pay for themselves in the long run. The adults they send into the community actually save states and cities a huge amount of money because these students have lower incarceration rates, better health and less reliance on welfare programs. The NY Times article comments that if the community school concept “ … were a company, Warren Buffet would snatch it up.”
This seems like a no-brainer to me. Massive social and personal gains are achieved in the long run with little or no net cost to the government. The problem is that money still has to be allocated today to establish community schools and the benefits can’t be seen for several years. Short-sighted politicians probably don’t want to allocate this money. And there may not be a lot of pressure on them to get behind these programs because so many voters don’t care about the underprivileged.
If it were up to me, all schools in poor areas would be converted into community schools. Maybe if we contact our local and state officials about this issue, we can raise awareness and maybe make a difference. This is a worthwhile cause so I will definitely try.
NOTE: Ellin and Tom are out to sea. Literally, on their boat, so she isn’t ignoring your comments. Connecting from the boat is difficult, but she’ll be back soon!
Excellent post, Ellin! Sharing… 🙂
Thank you for telling me. Your feedback is important to me! It let’s me know who I am writing for and what you like to read about.
Great piece, Ellin. If only, we could get the movers and shakers to listen.
There was a wonderful piece on yesterday’s “CBS Sunday Morning” show about using music as an educational bridge, beginning in elementary school. Check it out if you folks missed it. Pancho can probably find it “On Demand”.
That really is a great idea. If this is what is happening, I have a lot more hope for the future.
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If you can find the NY Times article, you will be very encouraged. It talks about hundreds of these schools in cities all over the country. They are already a “thing” in the education community. So I think there’s a good chance that they will continue and spread to the inner cities that don’t yet have them. I agree, this is a very encouraging phenomenon – which is why I wrote about it!
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It’s always nice to hear good news like that.
These schools sound like a great idea and I thoroughly agree with you. Sadly most politicians don’t play the long game. They want results that will show up before the next election campaign.
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But the good news is that there are hundreds of these schools in cities across the country already. People, even politicians, on the local level seem to care and “get it”. So I think there is hope for the future of American education.
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