The Every Student Succeeds Act
In December, Congress passed and the President signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, intended to replace No Child Left Behind. ESSA includes some important wins for community schools.
Thanks to everyone who took advocacy actions as ESSA worked through the process -- from using social media to let members of Congress know how important 21st CCLC funds are in Ilinois to sign-on letters in support of the Full Service Community School program to meetings with legislators, your actions made a difference.
Learn more about our policy priorities and steps you can take to advocate for community schools in Illinois.
Each of the 7 winners, which include both individual schools and multi-site community initiatives, brings a unique story of success. Organized to respond to local conditions, these awardees are tackling some of today's most pressing issues that influence young people's development - poverty, safety, and equitable access to opportunities. They demonstrate how public schools can become community hubs that bring together educators, families, and community partners to offer a range of opportunities and supports to families, communities, and young people.
John Hancock College Preparatory High School in Chicago was an award recipient. Through its partnership with Youth Guidance, Hancock has increased its social-emotional support for students, through programs like Becoming A Man (BAM), as well as enrichment opportunities that enable students to exercise leadership skills. It is paying off in the form of attendance rates increasing from 70 percent in 2010 to 90% last year, decreased dropout rates, and the five-year graduation rate improving by 20%. All their efforts combined have led to academic gains and a positive school climate and culture.
Click here to learn more about the National Community Schools Awards for Excellence and additional awardees.
Many thanks to the 130+ participants who joined us (in person or virtually) in Springfield on April 29 for our Community Schools & Afterschool Programs Advocacy Day hosted in partnership with the ACT Now Coalition. Program staff, parents, and students from Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Champaign-Ford ROE, Elev8 Chicago / Mikva Challenge, Family Focus, ICOY, Illinois Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, MFS, Project Success of Vermillion County, The Jackson Initiative, YMCA, and Youth with a Positive Direction collectively met with 74 elected officials.
Participants carried the messages that afterschool and community schools are essential and spoke out against cuts to Teen REACH programs which keep kids safe and engaged, improve academic outcomes and support working families. To illustrate the impact of the Good Friday cuts, BPNC delivered letters from students effected by the suspension of Teen REACH to Gov. Rauner.
Good Friday Cuts Reversed
The efforts of a wide range of stakeholders impacted by the Good Friday cuts were ultimately successful as the Governor announced on April 30 that he was reversing the cuts. Though this is a critical victory for us and the youth and families we serve, the fight continues as efforts over the next month shift towards FY16 budget negotiations.
Your Voices Still Need to be Heard
It is important that we continue educating our elected officials about the importance of community schools and afterschool programs. As the focus shifts towards the FY16 budget, urge them to avoid budget cuts and instead seek responsible revenue generating solutions that ensure adequate investments in our children, families, and communities.
On April 24 a bus load of 75 parents, teachers, funders and elected officials from Wisconsin arrived at Shields Middle School, in Chicago's Brighton Park neighborhood. They were there to learn about community schools and see for themselves how community school partnerships like the one between Shields and Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC) address the holistic needs of the children and families they serve. The site visit, co-hosted by the Federation and CPS' Community Schools Initiative, was designed to provide a wide range of stakeholders with an understanding of the key functions of a community school and strategies for supporting community school implementation in their own communities. Participants included representatives from from United Way of Racine County, United Way of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Teachers Union, Madison School District, and Wisconsin Jobs Now.
|Mr. Auffant, principal, demonstrates "a day in the life" of a Shields community school student|
Participants also heard from Mandee Polonsky, Senior Director, Community Impact at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago about their commitment to community schools and the impact they are seeing, including ways that the United Way is measuring impact and why they've taken the approach to invest in networking and aligning supports within communities. Missy Carpenter, Director of Community Schools for Y.O.U. in Evanston, IL also talked about what this work can look like in a suburban community and shared insight about strategically scaling-up an initiative. She also reinforced that community school work is not a program or even a series of programs - it is a strategy, and a way to change the way systems and people work together to support students.
Prior to setting off for Chicago, two participants, Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee), unveiled legislation that would facilitate the creation of "Community Schools" in their local public school districts. Click here to learn more or read a copy of the bill.