In 2006, the Federation for Community Schools was born out of the vision of the Chicago Campaign to Expand Community Schools and the Chicago Coalition for Community Schools in order to share best practices and advocate for community schools in Illinois. Community schools are schools that partner with community agencies and local governments to build an integrated approach to academics, health and social services, and youth and community development. They provide extended learning time and opportunities, engage families actively, and emphasize collaborative practices.

A report released today by the National Education Policy Center and the Learning Policy Institute, entitled “Community Schools: An Evidenced-Based Strategy for School Improvement,” reveals that the community schools strategy can be an important part of systemic school reform, specifically when the model is implemented with fidelity. This report highlights the importance of technical assistance and capacity building support for all schools and their partners undertaking this work, which is especially significant for those doing so as part of a broader school improvement effort.  The report confirms the outcomes that the Federation of Community Schools has seen in Illinois – the schools that are successful in changing outcomes for kids are the ones that are both paying attention to supports across all four pillars – integrated student supports, expanded learning time and opportunities, family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership and practices – and implementing the model well.

The report stresses the importance of:

  • taking a comprehensive approach;
  • adapting the strategy to local contexts;
  • providing sufficient planning time to build trusting relationships between the school and partners;
  • involving young people, parents, and community members as part of the needs assessment, design, planning and implementation processes;
  • using evaluation strategies that provide useful information about implementation and exposure to services, as well as progress toward hoped-for outcomes; and
  • using data for continuous program refinement, while allowing sufficient time for the strategy to fully mature.

The Federation for Community Schools at Children’s Home + Aid is an initiative of the Ahlquist Center for Policy Practice and Innovation. It is a state-wide network whose goals are to amplify the voice and abilities of community schools in Illinois. The Federation represents nearly 200 community schools and 100 partner organizations in Illinois through its 1300+ members who engage with us to support the advancement of community schools.

Through providing trainings and resources that increase their capacity to implement the community school strategy so as to best support students and families, the Federation has developed a vibrant professional learning community within Illinois. The report released today underscores the importance of the Federation’s work to enable partnerships that help realize the school improvement opportunities offered by the community school strategy.

Read the entire report here.