About Community Schools
Purpose of Grant Program
Pursuant to Education Law §3641 subdivision 6-a, the Commissioner of the State Education Department (SED) is authorized to award competitive grants “to eligible school districts for plans that target school buildings as ‘community hubs to deliver co-located or school-linked academic, health, mental health, nutrition, counseling, legal and/or other services to students and their families in a manner that will lead to improved educational and other outcomes.’”
These “Community Schools” are public schools that emphasize family engagement and are characterized by strong partnerships and additional supports for students and families designed to counter environmental factors that impede student achievement. Fundamentally, Community Schools coordinate and maximize public, non-profit and private resources to deliver critical services to students and their families, thereby increasing student achievement and generating other positive outcomes.
The demands on schools in distressed communities are far greater than in less challenged areas, and span a variety of disciplines that include but are not limited to academics. Communities in distress need to be able to rely on their schools to not only provide a quality education to every child, but also to serve as the hub for varied support services for children and their families.
These critical services address a variety of needs, from health care to counseling, from nutrition to job preparation. We must all work together to support these schools as neighborhood solutions, many of which are the primary point of contact between at-risk families and critical service providers.
The Community Schools Grant Initiative (CSGI), as recommended by Governor Cuomo and enacted in the 2013-14 budget, builds on the evidence of promising practices from successful community schools across the state and nation. This program reflects the recommendations of the New NY Education Reform Commission and is consistent with the New York State Board of Regents advocacy for establishing programs for students and families that provide academic enrichment activities along with a broad array of student and family development opportunities within their communities. The Community Schools initiatives seek to coordinate and maximize public, non-profit, and private resources to deliver critical services to students and their families and thereby increase student achievement and attain other positive outcomes.
The Community Schools Strategy and Theory of Action
Community Schools are public schools that emphasize family engagement, characterized by strong partnerships and additional supports for students and families designed to counter environmental factors that impede student achievement. While some of the specific attributes of a community school program vary based on the needs of its respective community, all Community Schools share three foundational pillars:
- A rigorous academic program with strong supports to prepare all students for college, careers, and citizenship, and that supplements quality curriculum with expanded learning opportunities that keep students engaged, coupled with high levels of accountability for results;
- A full range of school-based and school-linked programs and services that, based on a needs assessment of the community, address the comprehensive needs of students and their families and that work with families as essential partners in student success; and
- Partnerships that demonstrate collaboration with the local community, including by engaging families and other community stakeholders and drawing on a broad set of resources, incorporating local and State government agencies, non-profit service providers, institutions of higher education, and the philanthropic and business communities in order to extend the impact and depth of services and programs.
It is important to emphasize that Community Schools do not seek to duplicate effective services that already exist in their communities; rather, through partnerships, these schools leverage existing high-quality programs and assets by linking them to the school and providing robust services to students and their families.