New study of New York City’s massive ‘Community Schools’ program paints encouraging picture

A massive Community Schools program in New York City is demonstrating encouraging signs of progress, according to a comprehensive study released Wednesday by the Rand Corporation.

Although the authors note that it’s too early to draw conclusions about the program’s success, they generally say that it’s on the right track, according to an analysis in

Chalkbeat notes that authors of the study “repeatedly cite school-level leaders who said they can see a real difference in their schools.”

One principal is quoted as saying: “The idea of supporting the entire family, as opposed to just looking at the child, it does so much. It says to the family, we’re here to do whatever we can to work with you to improve your child’s academic success.”

WEAC and NEA are strong supporters of the Community Schools model, which features integrated student supports, expanded learning time, family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership. The Community Schools model is being implemented in several communities throughout Wisconsin, including Madison, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Sun Prairie, Racine and Milwaukee. Find out more.

Read Chalkbeat’s summary of the Rand study:

Five takeaways from a new study of New York City’s massive ‘community schools’ program

In the largest effort of its kind, Mayor Bill de Blasio has stocked high-needs schools with an array of social services that he hopes can overcome the effects of poverty and improve student learning. The initiative has cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars and attracted the attention of districts across the country that are interested in so-called “community schools.”


Legislative Update – June 5

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While public education advocates were expecting the Joint Finance Committee could take up some measures relating to the K-12 budget soon, things seem to be at an impasse. The panel had not issued any official notices for meeting, so there’s no telling how long it will be before they take up education funding. We will continue to monitor the schedule and alert you of any developments.

The delay comes from a stir around school funding caused by the Assembly Republicans again floating the idea of creating their own education budget, which could cut about $90 million from the budget proposal currently on the table. Senators continue to push back hard, saying they will work off the original plan. Read more.

The Assembly and Senate are expected to hold floor sessions again on Wednesday, June 14.

Also making headlines is WEAC President Ron Martin, who penned an op-ed to underline the groundswell of support for neighborhood public schools – and let legislators know parents and educators are paying close attention to what happens in Madison. Read the column.

By the Issues
Community Schools. SB 282, creating community school start-up grants was introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Education. Under this bill, the DPI would award competitive grants to school boards for community schools, as matching funds from the community. The bill defines a “community school” as a public school that focuses on improving student learning, strengthening families, developing healthier communities, working with community partners to provide additional services to the surrounding community, and providing wrap-around support services to pupils and their families but does not include independent charter schools or charter schools that are not an instrumentality of a school district. The bill specifically requires a portion of the grants to go to rural schools, high-poverty schools and to transform low-performing schools. The grants would be for five years, with opportunities to renew.

Higher Education.

  • SB 289 (companion bill AB 373): Requiring University of Wisconsin System schools to offer degree credit internships for each academic major. Referred to Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges.
  • SB 290: Three-year bachelor’s degree statements for University of Wisconsin System universities. Referred to Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges.

Coming Up:

Wednesday, June 7

  • Public hearings on two bills (SB-300 and SB-304) regarding student testing are scheduled.
  • The Assembly Financial Institutions Committee will meet to act on AB-280, which would require the incorporation of financial literacy into the curriculum of public schools.

Tuesday, June 13

  • The Joint Finance Committee has scheduled a meeting to decide on the self-insurance contracts from Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, which the JFC co-chairs said the committee will reject.

Wednesday, June 14

  • Assembly and Senate floor sessions.


Community Schools model can be a successful strategy for improving schools under ESSA, researchers say

Community schools — which feature integrated student supports, expanded learning time, family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership — can be a successful strategy for improving schools under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). That’s the conclusion of a new research review released at the Community Schools Awards for Excellence Symposium.

This brief, published jointly by the Learning Policy Institute and the National Education Policy Center, discusses the four key features of community schools and offers guidance to support school, district, and state leaders as they consider or implement a community school intervention strategy in schools targeted for comprehensive support. It was made possible in part by support provided to NEPC by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Below is a summary from the Learning Policy Institute:

Community schools represent a place-based school improvement strategy in which “schools partner with community agencies and local government to provide an integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement.”(01) Many operate year-round, from morning to evening, and serve both children and adults. Although the approach is appropriate for students of all backgrounds, many community schools serve neighborhoods where poverty and racism erect barriers to learning, and where families have few resources to supplement what typical schools provide.

Community schools vary in the programs they offer and the way they operate, depending on their local context. However, four features — or pillars — appear in most community schools:

  1. Integrated student supports
  2. Expanded learning time and opportunities
  3. Family and community engagement
  4. Collaborative leadership and practices

Because ESSA requires that federally funded interventions be “evidence-based,” we reviewed both research on community schools as a comprehensive strategy and research on each of the four individual pillars of the strategy. We summarized the findings and evaluated the studies against ESSA’s criteria for “evidence-based” interventions, which define different tiers of evidence based on research methodology.

We conclude from our review that the evidence supports well-implemented community schools being included as part of targeted and comprehensive interventions in high-poverty schools. This evidence also supports community schools as an approach appropriate for broader use.

Policymakers who want to incorporate a community schools’ strategy into their ESSA state plans — as well as other plans for state and local school improvements — can benefit from the following research-based recommendations:

  • Take a comprehensive approach to community schools: All four pillars — integrated student supports, expanded learning time and opportunities, family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership and practices — matter; moreover, they appear to reinforce each other. To ensure a good outcome, pay attention to both the technical and the cultural dimensions of a community school. For example, plan not simply for a longer school day, but also for effective use of time gained. Certified teachers are best positioned to provide additional academic instruction, while community partners can engage students in experiential learning opportunities that connect to the community and foster significant relationships with adults. The work is best accomplished when school and community representatives plan and work together, building a school culture that is collaborative and collegial.
  • Recognize that successful community schools do not all look alike. Develop a plan that operationalizes the four pillars in ways that address local assets and needs, keeping in mind that the context of schools and communities may change over time. Therefore, as events unfold, be prepared to modify the original implementation rather than avoiding programmatic change. As ESSA suggests, use data in an ongoing process of continuous program evaluation and improvement.
  • Provide sufficient planning time to build trusting relationships between the school and an array of service providers as well as parents and staff, being mindful that such collaboration is key to full implementation.
  • Involve the community, parents, and young people as part of the needs assessment, design, planning, and implementation processes. ESSA requires it, and, in the case of community schools, such collaborative relationships are part of what will make the strategy successful.
  • Use evaluation strategies that provide information not only about progress toward hoped-for outcomes, but also about implementation and exposure to services. Be aware that outcomes are likely to span multiple domains — achievement, attendance, behavior, relationships, and attitudes — and are likely to take time to be fully realized. Certain outcomes, such as attendance, are likely to be achieved before other outcomes, such as achievement. Use data for continuous program refinement, while allowing sufficient time for the strategy to fully mature.
  • Encourage and support researchers, allowing them to conduct more rigorous studies using methods that will enable a stronger understanding of community schools’ effectiveness, and yield greater insight into the conditions under which they work well. Because this approach is frequently adopted as a turnaround strategy in underperforming schools, current evidence consists largely of program evaluations that assess student- and school-level progress. Additional research should seek to guide implementation and refinement.

WEAC and the NEA are strong supporters of the Community Schools model. Read more.

Racine students, parents, community benefit from Community Schools model

The Community Schools Model, implemented this year at Knapp Elementary School in Racine, is benefitting students, parents and the community.

“We can’t look at the whole child if we don’t look at their family and the community they live in,” said Jamie Racine, community schools manager for United Way of Racine County, which works with Knapp on the program. “We’re looking at all the components and finding out what do those folks need and how can we leverage our resources in our community to help everyone get where they need to go.”

Racine is quoted in a Racine Journal Times article about the successes of the first year of the Community Schools program at Knapp.

“We got some preliminary data back from the district that shows our students that are involved in after-school programs have a higher attendance, higher grades and lower office discipline referrals,” Racine said. “Eighty-five percent of our students that are engaged in after-school programs actually have zero office referrals.”

Among other things, the Community School model brings services into the school, such as dental screenings for children and assistance with tax returns for adults.

The article quotes State Representative Corey Mason (D-Racine), who is trying to secure state funding to support the Community School model statewide.

“In 11 years of doing work in the Legislature and really trying to advocate for closing the achievement gap, the community-schools model is the best I’ve ever seen,” Mason said. “It really invites the community to take ownership of their school.”

The Community Schools model has been implemented in several Wisconsin school districts, including six schools in Milwaukee Public Schools.

Read the entire Racine Journal Times article:

Community school gains attention

RACINE – As the end of the school year nears, so does the first year of the community-school model at Knapp Elementary School. Its concept is simple: Treat the whole child, inside and outside of the classroom.

NEA Leadership Visits Milwaukee to Learn More About Community Schools

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Milwaukee Public Schools has been getting some well-deserved attention for its commitment to the Community Schools model–which has grown from the advocacy of educators in the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

The district established the first three community schools in 2015 and has now expanded to a total of seven thriving community schools. Early growth shows improved school culture and climate, significant increases in literacy rates in early grades, dramatic growth in school and community partnerships, increased math proficiency in early grades, increased community engagement, and increased college and career pathways for students.


Authentic Community Schools link culturally relevant classroom practices with community services, social supports and neighborhood engagement. The Center for Popular Democracy identifies six research-based strategies that allow for greater student-centered learning and community investment. These strategies include: strong culturally relevant curriculum, high quality teaching; shared leadership; community support services; restorative practices; and family and community engagement.

Milwaukee’s early success with the model prompted National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Vice President Becky Pringle, and Secretary Treasurer Princess Moss and members of the NEA Executive Council to visit. NEA’s trip signals the growing interest to strengthen and build the public Community Schools model nationwide.


The visit started with a trip to James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC), where the MPS Administration shared successes and challenges with implementing the Community Schools model.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and her leadership team sit at the table with MTEA leadership and MPS Administration to discuss Community Schools in Milwaukee (Photo: Joe Brusky).

JMAC’s Community School Coordinator and Parent Coordinator provided their expertise to the group. These two positions are critical to establishing engaged parents and community for successful school outcomes.

The Community School Coordinator for James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC) presented to the group (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Following the visit to JMAC, the group made their way over to the newest Community School in Milwaukee, Lincoln Avenue, where the school’s “Lincoln Cheer Team” greeted them.

The Lincoln Cheer Team greeted the group upon their arrival (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Beck Pringle and Lily Eskelsen Garcia react to the festive welcome (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Lincoln Avenue’s parent coordinator showed off the school’s Parent Center. The center provides a hub for parents to increase engagement in the school’s operation as well as expand access to needed resources, such as Internet and laundry facilities.

Lincoln Avenue’s Parent Coordinator shares the early successes with the Parent Center at the new Community School (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Ryan Hurley of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County spoke on how his organization facilitates community partnerships by helping identify and mobilize neighborhood groups and resources. These neighborhood collaborations provide the school with additional support such as access to health services or other critical needs that must be met to ensure learning occurs.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia observes a reading group (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Finally NEA leadership got to see the model in action. They toured several rooms, including a bilingual kindergarten classroom. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Becky Pringle, and Princess Moss used the opportunity to work and speak with students to experience how students are excelling. The early results on the Community School model are encouraging, but there’s no greater proof of the model’s success than seeing students thriving firsthand. We know when our students’ needs are met they flourish.

NEA Vice President Becky Pringle checks in on a young writer (Photo: Joe Brusky).

As the model grows nationwide, we look forward to making Milwaukee a place for other NEA educators to come and learn about how the model can enhance the quality of classroom practices and increase community involvement. Public community schools galvanize our educators around a vision inclusive of community control of public education which stands in stark contrast to the corporate destruction of our public schools system.

Lincoln Avenue students ask Lily Eskelsen Garcia and MTEA Vice President Amy Mizialko take a photo as they left the school (Photo: Joe Brusky).


Learn more about Community Schools here.

NEA Executive Committee visits MTEA, applauds Community Schools program

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association welcomed the National Education Association Executive Committee to Milwaukee Tuesday. The NEA leaders – including President Lily Eskelsen García, Vice President Becky Pringle and Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss – met with MTEA’s leadership, MPS Administration and United Way representatives to find ways to continue the success and growth of Milwaukee’s seven #CommunitySchools. The group toured and met the students and staff of James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC) and Lincoln Avenue Elementary, both MPS Community Schools. MTEA’s Joe Brusky shared these – and more – photos on the MTEA Facebook page:

Community Schools strengthen neighborhoods, raise achievement, new Brookings Institution paper says

Community Schools lead to improvements in attendance, health, school climate and achievement while strengthening neighborhoods, according to a new research paper by Brookings Institution researcher Reuben Jacobson.

The paper, which is part of the Building Healthy Neighborhoods series, explores the potential for Community Schools to cultivate healthy neighborhoods through partnerships with educators, families, nonprofits, businesses, faith-based institutions, and community members. The Community Schools approach is gaining traction throughout America, and is growing in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin.

Community Schools exist or are being developed in several communities throughout Wisconsin, including MadisonGreen BayOshkoshSun Prairie and Milwaukee. Recently the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featured the impressive accomplishments of the Community School program at Auer Avenue School in Milwaukee. It is one of six schools involved in the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership.

An executive summary of Jacobson’s paper says:

The institutions of a neighborhood are vital to its health and economic strength, and public schools are one of the most important shared institutions. They function not only as centers for providing education but also as hubs for communities to organize a range of supports and opportunities for children and their families.

In the growing attention to “place-based” strategies for tackling health and social needs, community schools are commanding attention. Community schools are places where educators, families, nonprofits, businesses, faith- based institutions, and community members form teams and develop partnerships to create the conditions for children to learn and thrive. Such school-based partnerships provide social services and supports, enriching educational opportunities, healthcare, mental health services, adult education, and nutrition programs, with a strong emphasis on equity and making greatest use of the community’s strengths.

Community schools have emerged from America’s long history of exploring schools as community hubs. The number of such schools has grown significantly over the past 10 years, with an estimated 5,000 now in operation. The evidence indicates impacts on attendance, health, school climate, and achievement. But such school-hubs also face challenges that need to be addressed:

  •   Sustained and scalable funding is often lacking.
  •   Cooperating and sharing control with partners is not easy.
  •   “Place” falls on a continuum, requiring any school-hub to be seen as part of a wider network.
  •   The research is growing, but is limited, and data are difficult to collect.

Read the entire report:



Read more about Community School:

Community Schools put students’ needs front and center

Community schools are an outstanding model for public education in the 21st century because they put students’ needs front and center. These schools can include partnerships with health care and social service providers, mentors, and others who offer a range of services, from medical care and counseling for students, to job resources and emergency assistance for parents and others who live in the neighborhood.

MPS scores up; district no longer subject to takeover

The Department of Public Instruction and Milwaukee Public Schools announced Wednesday that – as the result of improved DPI scores – the Milwaukee Public Schools school district is no longer eligible for takeover under the MPS Takeover plan, also known as the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program (OSPP).

“The OSPP legislation was one of the greatest threats to public education Milwaukee has ever seen,” said Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) President Kim Schroeder. “The MTEA applauds the work of all educators, parents, and community members who have worked tirelessly to fight this legislation both through grassroots organizing and direct action.

MTEA President Kim Schroeder

MTEA President Kim Schroeder

“Thanks to the dedication and commitment of MPS educators, parents, and community members, our students are performing against all odds to overcome the effects of failed education policies.

“We know what works in Milwaukee because we are seeing the results of positive, educator-driven initiatives like the Community School model,” Schroeder said. “We see what happens in public schools where parents, communities, students, and educators are empowered to take ownership of their schools to ensure the success of every child. The OSPP legislation, which threatened to take away local control from the Milwaukee community, is another example of a failed policy created without the expertise of educators who work in our schools.

“Every child in Milwaukee has the right to a publicly funded, equitable, and democratically controlled public school. The MTEA is deeply committed to ensuring every child, regardless of their zip code has access to the schools they deserve.

“MTEA members welcome this news and will continue to fight for the public schools every child deserves.”

WEAC President Ron Martin said he is “extremely proud of the work that is going on in the Milwaukee Public Schools.”

“The educators have worked hard and have demonstrated their commitment to the kids and to the community,” Martin said. “This is an example of why legislators need to get out of the business of pretending to know what is best for our kids and our public schools. Let the real experts provide input as to how we improve and make our schools better than they already are.

“We have known all along that when teachers and parents have the opportunity to work together to make a difference in our public schools it is a win-win situation,” Martin said. “We must continue to advocate for fair funding for all our public schools.

“The Wisconsin Education Association Council applauds the work of the educators in Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association. We care deeply about the success of every child in Wisconsin and we are proud of Wisconsin Public Schools.”

MPS said it received a letter from DPI informing the district it will not have to participate in the OSPP program because the district is no longer in the bottom category in the state school report card. Only school districts in the lowest category of the state report card for two consecutive years are required to participate in OSPP.

“While we are energized by the progress we’re making, we still have significant work to do,” said MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver. “We are working with students, staff and dozens of community partners to better prepare all of our young people for success, particularly at the secondary school level.”

In a statement, MPS said it has committed to rethinking high schools by expanding college-level Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes as well as career and technical education offerings. It added:

This year, 21 percent of all MPS high school students are taking a college-level class. The district also added more than 350 students to a culinary arts program as it expands career and technical education options.

While the details of the state report card will not be released until next month, MPS’ local STAR assessment data shows growth in student achievement and signs that the district is closing achievement gaps:

  • Literacy is improving across all grade levels.
  • The number of students on target for proficiency in reading improved last year by two percent.
  • Early reading skills increased significantly, with 51 percent of all K5 and 1st grade students on target at the end of the school year compared to only 43 percent on target at the beginning of the school year.

“We are heading in the right direction. Our collective focus as a community must be on working together to support our young people,” said MPS Board President Mark Sain. “If we continue to do the right thing for our students, we will not fail.”

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DPI: No MPS schools eligible for takeover this year

Just months after Milwaukee Public Schools rebuffed efforts by a legislatively mandated turnaround district to take control of one of its poorly performing schools, MPS appears to have won a reprieve from the takeover law at least for this year.

Investment in Community Schools would help students reach their full potential

Senator Chris Larson

Senator Chris Larson

Governor Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature have underinvested in public schools, and the state should reverse that trend in part by supporting the Community Schools Act, Senator Chris Larson said in the Democrats’ weekly radio address. Community Schools, he said, “invest in a holistic approach to education, addressing the complex factors contributing to student learning – like hunger, homelessness, and health care. Just picture schools being the center of a community the way they were meant to be. ”

Here is the complete text of his radio message:

“Hello. This is Senator Chris Larson. Children across Wisconsin are returning to school. As a parent, I have felt firsthand the joys of watching my kids learn, grow, and overcome challenges. This time of year serves as a reminder that equal opportunity and access to a quality education are cornerstone American principles, because we all believe that every child should have the freedom to live a successful life.

“Under Walker and legislative Republicans, our schools have been intentionally underinvested in. Wisconsin must begin focusing on creating school environments that will help students reach their full potential.

“We can do this through proposals like the Community Schools Act, which would invest in a holistic approach to education, addressing the complex factors contributing to student learning – like hunger, homelessness, and health care. Just picture schools being the center of a community the way they were meant to be.

“Further, a poorly crafted funding formula has created inequity between low and high revenue school districts. The quality of your child’s education should not depend on your geographic location, and fixing this reality should be a priority for state leaders.

“The future of Wisconsin is on the line. We must reinvest in our local, neighborhood schools to ensure a bright future for all Wisconsin children. Thank you for listening and good luck to the students, parents, and educators – I hope this school year is a successful one!”



Come and Learn About Milwaukee’s Four Community Schools


Community schools are the future for students in Milwaukee. What is a community school? Come and find out!

Join school staff at the four existing MPS community schools, Milwaukee Public Schools administration, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, Wisconsin Jobs Now, and participating students as they discuss Milwaukee’s vision for community schools.

Come and Learn About Milwaukee’s Four Community Schools.

RSVP below:
Auer Avenue Community School
Bradley Tech
Hopkins Lloyd Community School
James Madison Academic Campus

May 5 Community School Flyer