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Making the Difference: Research and Practice in Community Schools, Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2003
8 pages
This overview of the nature and effectiveness of "community schools" focuses on how they improve outcomes for students, families, schools, and communities; why they do a better job than traditional schools; and an action agenda for developing community schools.
A "community school" is a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, services, supports, and opportunities leads to improved student learning, stronger families, and healthier communities. Schools become centers of the community and are open to everyone all day, every day, evenings, and weekends. Evaluations have examined the impact of 20 community school initiatives across the Nation, focusing on outcomes that directly affect student learning. Their collective results show that community schools improve student learning, promote family engagement with students and schools, help schools function more effectively, and add vitality to communities. Community schools achieve these results because they garner additional resources for the school and reduce demands on school staff; provide learning opportunities that develop both academic and nonacademic competencies; and offer youth, their families, and community residents opportunities to build social capital. In the latter case, social capital connects students to people and information that can help them solve problems and meet their goals. Community schools enable all students to forge networks and social skills through mentoring relationships with caring adults, school-to-work learning, community service, and other experiences. This is done while providing parents and other adults with similar opportunities to learn and assume leadership roles. The action steps proposed in this report focus on five elements that are critical to the success of community schools: a motivating vision, connected learning experiences, community partnerships, and strategic organization and financing. The report concludes with a listing of 15 community schools throughout the country and a brief statement on the achievements of each.