Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools Introduction For at least a decade, the dominant idea about how to improve outcomes for children and youth has focused on control and compliance; holding adults accountable for raising test scores. This approach has proved least effective for our most vulnerable students. In our search for silver […]
The Goal: Community Schools for Everyone
Since the mid-1990s Denver Public Schools (DPS) has applied an economic principal to education. The idea was the data can improve education. The problem is that kids are not data, and as any social scientist can tell you, test data is not the whole story. This is especially true to Education.
The idea of the Community School strategy is to make neighborhood schools the center of the community and family life. Through the Community Schools approach families can get connected with health and welfare resources to help kids succeed. In some schools, that has been in the form of finding stable housing for a family, getting a tongue tie repaired so the child could speak properly. It is based on the knowledge and evidence that children do not perform in schools in a vacuum. The stresses from their out-of-school lives follows them into the classrooms. But, when parents, teachers, administrators, businesses, universities, and non-profits come together it benefits the entire community.
This may sound a little like DPS's Whole Child Initiative. And the idea is similar, but the implementation is vastly different. In the case of DPS, schools are given money to hire psychologists, nurses and therapists. But that is where the support stops. If a Principal has the right personality, a strong PTSA and her own network, she can apply a Community School strategy. But it is not applied district wide, and worse, the schools that do not have connected, outgoing principals and strong PTSAs are often closed before they can turn around - or closed just as there are signs of the turn around (due to lagging test data).
Denver's Whole Child initiative merely pays lip-service to the Community Schooling approach. It is an office out the outside, as opposed to an integrated strategy throughout the district.
We want DPS to stop failing our kids and our schools. To stop putting all the work on the principals and teachers and then punishing them when can not do the District's job. And to stop closing our neighborhood schools.
Our Denver Our Schools believes a Community School approach embraced and implemented at every level of District and school administration, with training for principals and district supports at every school is how we turn around our most vulnerable schools, support all our families, and create strong thriving Denver communities.