A new RAND Corporation report shows most of the New York City Department of Education’s community schools have lengthened the school day to offer students additional learning opportunities and have increased efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism, Chalkbeat reports.
The report focuses on the implementation of the school district’s community schools initiative, in which schools, particularly those that are underperforming, work with community-based organizations to provide mentoring, mental health services and other programs to improve outcomes for students.
Challenges with the implementation include staff turnover in both schools and partner organizations, as well as feelings on the part of school administrators that managing the partnerships takes time away from their other duties, according to Chalkbeat.
Under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, the community school approach has become a key strategy in the effort to improve struggling schools and address nonacademic needs among students. Earlier this year, the district was recognized by the Coalition for Community Schools for its swift progress in creating the largest community schools initiative in the country.
The RAND study’s findings, and the district’s experiences, also provide lessons for other district and school leaders involved in community school initiatives or just working in partnership with outside agencies and nonprofit organizations. One lesson is that trying to implement a community school model at the same time as other programs can be overwhelming. Organizations that are providing training should coordinate and align professional development to lessen the burden on school staff members and leaders.
For a school to truly be a community school, it’s also important to better incorporate the voices of students and parents when deciding what programs and services to offer through the school, the report says. Researchers should also begin analyzing specific components of the community school initiative, the authors recommend. A follow-up report, focusing more on the impact of the initiative, will be released in 2019.