Millions of Dollars Are Earmarked for Expanding Full-Service Community Schools: Here Are Three Ways to Use It
by Mavis G. Sanders & Claudia Galindo - October 18, 2021
As a comprehensive school reform strategy designed to meet the complex needs of students in underserved communities, full-service community schools (FSCSs) have the potential to transform these studentsí learning experiences and outcomes. In part because of findings demonstrating their positive impact, unprecedented federal, state, and local funding is earmarked for the expansion and implementation of FSCSs. School, district, and state leaders and policy makers will have to decide how to best use these funds to maximize outcomes for students and families. This commentary describes three spending priorities based on the growing body of research on FSCSs.
The full-service community school (FSCS) strategy is expanding throughout the United States with more than 5,000 currently in operation and a goal of 25,000 by 2025 (Coalition for Community Schools, 2020). FSCSs are grounded in a social justice framework and promise more equitable educational experiences for historically underserved students (Galindo & Sanders, 2019). These schools are characterized by four pillars of practice: integrated health and social services, extended culturally and community responsive learning opportunities, collaborative leadership, and family and community engagement (Oakes et al., 2017). Through these defining features, FSCSs seek to create better resourced learning environments and more engaged school stakeholders to prepare college-, career-, and civic-ready students (Galindo & Sanders, 2021).
In part because of findings demonstrating their positive impact (Biag & Castrechini, 2016; Oakes et al., 2017; Sanders & Galindo, 2020), unprecedented federal, state, and local funding is earmarked for the expansion and implementation of FSCSs. For example, the Biden administration is proposing over $400 million (15 times the current level) in its FY22 budget to expand FSCSs (Mohler, 2021). The Blueprint for Marylands Future (Gaines, 2019), legislation passed in 2019, includes about $51 million for the expansion of FSCS practices and services in high-poverty schools, and in 2014, New York City allocated $54 million to launch 45 FSCSs (Johnston et al., 2020). School, district, and state leaders and policy makers will have to decide how to best use these funds to maximize outcomes for students and families. Here, we describe three spending priorities based on the growing body of research on FSCSs.
FSCSs provide students and families with extended services, requiring additional personnel to plan, coordinate, deliver, and evaluate them. The community school coordinator (CSC) is essential among these personnel. Their role is to develop community partnerships that align with the pillars of the FSCS strategy and advance key school goals (Mayger & Hochbein, 2019; Sanders et al., 2019). The CSCs work is extensive and must be protected from mission creep (i.e., the temptation to direct the professional responsibilities of the CSC away from community partnerships to other school-based activities).
Investing in a family engagement liaison and clinician is one way to ensure that all pillars of the FSCS strategy are implemented. The liaison collaborates with the CSC to ensure that families are empowered stakeholders, actively engaged in school decision-making and supporting their childrens learning and developmenta persistent challenge for many FSCSs despite their emphasis on equitable family engagement (Chen et al., 2016). The clinician helps coordinate outreach and servicesfrom dental checks to family counselingto ensure that FSCSs effectively promote student, family, and community health and safety as part of a whole school, whole community, whole child approach (Medina et al., 2019; Temkin et al., 2020).
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR KEY STAKEHOLDERS
FSCSs are not just traditional schools with extra support staff; they operate within an equity framework that seeks to improve educational experiences and outcomes for underserved students. It is important that key stakeholdersprincipals, teachers, and FSCS personnelare empowered to disrupt the status quo in schools and communities (McKinney de Royston & Madkins, 2019). Professional development is essential for these diverse stakeholders to understand the roles and responsibilities on which FSCSs rely (Voyles, 2012). Such professional development will also broaden awareness of the underlying principles of FSCSs and systemic barriers to students learning and well-being (Daniel et al., 2019). Teachers and staff can then foster trusting relationships across professional, racial, class, and gender boundaries and build the capacity of FSCSs to achieve their transformative potential (Daniel, 2017).
OUT-OF-SCHOOL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
FSCSs aim to be community learning hubs by partnering with community organizations to identify and fund learning opportunities for families, students, and community members (Author). These programs occur outside the regular school dayover the summer, during extended school breaks, and after school. When most effective, they are community- and culturally responsive and reflect learners assets, needs, and interests (Hauseman, 2016). Community members can explore the arts, STEM, GED classes, tutoring, service learning, and more (Anderson-Butcher, 2004). Removing barriers to participation by providing meals and transportation is a vital way for FSCSs to realize their roles as sources of place-based human and social capital (Jacobson, 2016).
This is an exciting time and a major turning point for FSCSs. The spending priorities we outline will help to ensure that these schools are equipped not only to expand as schools reopen during COVID-19 recovery, but also to accelerate the transformation of schooling for underserved children, families, and communities.
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