AIR's Community Schools Work
Community schools are a strategy to support students, their families, and the broader school community through cross-sector partnerships with community agencies and providers that support whole-child development and positive student, family, and community outcomes.
Key to the success of community schools is the coordination and alignment of services, activities, and supports around a widely shared vision for how the school and its partners can support student development and family and community well-being. Community schools are where everyone’s voice matters; typically, they have multiple structures and platforms in place for shared, authentic decision making on strategy implementation.
What We Do
We leverage extensive knowledge in three key areas to inform our work with community schools initiatives and drive technical assistance efforts:
- Afterschool and summer learning: AIR delivers professional development, consultation, training, coaching, and ongoing support through presentations, trainings, and technical assistance to help program leaders and staff create, improve, and maintain excellent programs.
- Parent and community engagement: AIR develops the capacity of schools, districts, and state education agencies to implement, scale up, and sustain initiatives in family and community engagement that support student success.
- Science of learning and development: AIR helps schools and districts use the science that describes how young people learn and develop to transform education systems, provide opportunities to all students, and help every young person thrive.
AIR uses the strongest research evidence and deep technical assistance expertise to support multiple community schools initiatives in achieving their goals. Our current work falls into four categories:
Evaluation Work with Chicago Public Schools
AIR has partnered with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for the past twenty years to support implementation of community schools. In 2002, CPS created the Community Schools Initiative (CSI) with the goal of identifying the needs of the school community and providing high-quality programming and services to address students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. AIR and its partner, Diehl Consulting Group, have served as CPS’s community evaluation partner since 2011, conducting implementation and outcome evaluations to document initiative progress, identify key implementation drivers, and assess initiative effectiveness. Our work has involved providing evaluation support in relation to CSI schools supported by:
- The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program;
- The Sustainable Community Schools (SCS) initiative; and
- The Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) grant program.
The Learning and Re-envisioning Network
The Learning and Re-envisioning Network (LRN) was developed as a strategy to better embed data in the ongoing work of Resource Coordinators to implement the Community Schools Initiative in Chicago Public Schools. More broadly, the LRN process uses the methods and tools of improvement science to develop an approach that facilitates continuous improvement with a focus on using real-time data, continuous assessment and small-scale adjustments to support improvement in practice. Learn more about LRN.
Evaluation of Full-Service Community Schools Grants
The Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) program aims to improve educational outcomes for youth by providing coordinated academic, social, and health services for students and their families. AIR currently works alongside the following groups to provide evaluation services for their FSCS grants:
Other State and Local Evaluation Work
AIR supports other state and local community schools initiatives across the country:
- University of Central Florida: AIR performed a statewide evaluation of Florida’s Community Partnership Schools (CPS) Initiative. AIR used a mixed-methods approach that included defining key performance metrics of effective community schools implementation, monitoring implementation of the CPS model, and examining the effect of the model on school outcomes. AIR then worked with the client to disseminate findings to key stakeholders and identify a path forward for additional evaluation and progress monitoring. Learn more about AIR’s work in Florida.
- Higher Ground: In 2023, AIR partnered with Higher Ground in Tucson, Arizona to provide evaluation services for its Restart SMART initiative, including an assessment of their current data collection and reporting infrastructure and processes and an implementation and effectiveness evaluation of the initiative. Learn more about AIR’s work with Higher Ground.
- Pittsburgh Public Schools: AIR supported Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) in its first year of implementation of its Community Schools Initiative. AIR worked with initiative leaders to assess how schools implemented community schools standards, document best practices for implementation, and understand the factors for the schools’ sustainability and scale-up. Learn more about AIR’s work with PPS.