AIR's Community Schools Work
Community schools support students, their families, and the broader school community in service of whole child development and positive family and community outcomes. As service hubs in their neighborhoods and communities, community schools unite families, educators, and community partners to accelerate equitable student outcomes in health, education, and employment. Community schools strive to be places where everyone’s voice matters; as such, they include multiple structures and platforms for shared and authentic decision-making.
A key component of community schools implementation involves establishing cross-sector partnerships between schools and community agencies and providers. For community schools to be successful, services, activities, and supports through these partnerships must be coordinated and aligned around a widely shared vision for how the school and its partners can support student development and family and community well-being.
A growing evidence base suggests that the community schools model, when implemented well, can positively influence a variety of student outcomes and enhance the effectiveness of schools, particularly those schools serving a high proportion of students and families living in poverty.
AIR’s work supports the adoption, evaluation, improvement, and maintenance of community schools in a variety of ways. Our community school experts work with education agencies, schools and districts, universities, and other stakeholders to align programming in ways that promote whole child growth and development while removing barriers to learning and providing access to new, integrated learning opportunities. At AIR, we:
- Conduct rigorous multi-method evaluations at the school, district, and state levels that examine both community school implementation and the effects on student outcomes;
- Develop and provide tools, training, and ongoing support to help community school leaders and staff create, improve, and maintain excellent programs;
- Give guidance to school, community agency, district, and state stakeholders on critical organizational polices and processes that drive effective community school implementation and ensure high-quality learning environments for students; and
- Share what we learn with the growing field of educators working to implement this model in their communities.
Over the last decade, AIR has provided these supports to multiple community schools initiatives. Through our work with Pittsburgh Public Schools, the University of Florida, and Chicago Public Schools we have identified key drivers for community school implementation success. Lessons learned from our work with Chicago Public Schools, for example, are summarized in two field-building briefs:
- Identifying Key Drivers of Effective Community Schools: Lessons Learned From the Evaluation of the Chicago Community Schools Initiative (PDF) outlines a series of key processes that we found were important to supporting implementation of the community school model.
- Community Schools and the Science of Learning and Development: What We Are Learning From the Chicago Public Schools Community Schools Initiative (PDF) describes the pillars of community schools and how they align with the science of learning and development and shares what we are learning from our work with community schools in Chicago in terms of this connection.