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Community Schools
in Action

Every community school looks slightly different, because it is developed through mutually beneficial partnerships with students, families, community agencies, businesses, and residents that are unique to that community.

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community school profiles to learn more about the powerful community school work of one district and two schools in Illinois.

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There are nearly 200 community schools in urban, surburban, and rural communities all over Illinois. Click on the interactive map to learn more about community schools in your area.  

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As the Community Schools movement continues to grow in Illinois and nationally, so does the body of research on community school programs. The research highlighted below provides background information on the formation of community schools and insights into the demonstrated impact that community school programs can have on children, families, schools, and communities. Check back often for the latest evaluations of what's working -- and lessons learned.

Leveling the Playing Field: Community Schools Confront Poverty to Improve Student Success
United Way of the Bay Area & Partnership for Children and Youth, 2013
Despite enormous investment in education reform, the achievement gap between poor children and their higher-income peers persists, threatening the economic security of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. In this paper, we examine the ways in which poverty and education are inextricably linked and explore one approach to K-12 education that is creating new opportunities for low-income youth. Community schools confront poverty and education together by working in partnership with the community to bring critical resources into the school in an integrated educational experience. From after-school to health clinics to parent education programs, community schools provide low-income youth a level playing field and empower them to take the first steps toward a brighter future.

Making an Impact: Community Schools in Illinois
The Federation for Community Schools, August 2013
In late 2012, the Federation for Community Schools convened a data roundtable, comprised of community school practitioners, partners and funders. This report uses data from roundtable participants to highlight the outcomes community school partnerships achieve in order to demonstrate the impact that full-service community schools are having on students and families across the state. It also includes recommendations developed by roundtable participants about what is needed to ensure that community schools can collect and use data to inform their practice, to demonstrate their impact, and generate the support necessary to grow and sustain their efforts.

Measuring Social Return on Investment of Community Schools
Children's Aid Society & The Finance Project, 2013
Community schools make an invaluable contribution to student academic achievement, children's social and emotional health, family participation and community engagement-in districts around the country and the world.  Yet we still face daunting challenges as we try to scale this proven model to achieve widespread impact, especially when resources are constrained and the effectiveness of investments is under increased scrutiny by grantmakers, individual donors and public agencies.  Social return on investment offers a new way to measure and share the value of outcomes from community schools that provide social, health and education services to children and their families.  Download a copy of the case study and the guide here. 

Elev8 Chicago: Demonstrating the Power and Potential of Community Schools
Elve8 Chicago, June 2013
Communities across the country are grappling with the challenge of preparing young people for a bright future, in the era of extremely tight resources.  This brief summarizes some of the lessons that have emerged from Elev8 Chicago's work, with a focus on their approach to evaluation and data-informed decision making. 

COMMUNITY SCHOOLS: Aligning Local Resources for Student Success
Partnership for Children & Youth, March 2013
This brief describes how community school efforts are financed—primarily, how local government agencies partner to align existing resources. Aligning resources means redeploying them—not small or easy decisions to make.

The Importance of After-School Programs in Education Reform Worldwide

The Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project, 2012
Eva L. Baker, President of the World Educational Research Association, describes after-school programs as essential to--and possibly the most effective strategy in--school reform. 

Mid-Sized Urban America: Does Community School Add Value in a Primary School Setting?

Debra S. Rada and Chris M. Lucas, 2011
Current literature provides quantitative and qualitative longitudinal research demonstrating the effectiveness of full-service community schools (FSCS) in improving student achievement. These studies examined schools in major urban cities such as New York, Chicago, and Boston (Children’s Aid Society, 2006; Whalen, 2007). By localizing research to a Midwest school district with a mid-sized urban population, researchers can provide insights for other school districts of similar size and location. This qualitative, interpretive multiple case study explores perceptions from three stakeholder groups at two primary schools. 

The Case for School-Based Integration of Services: Changing the Ways Students, Families and Communities Engage with Their Schools

Public/Private Ventures, 2009
A good education is key to helping young people grow into healthy, productive adults, but for disadvantaged, low-income youth and their families, p
oor health often interferes with low-income educations.  Untreated hearing and vision problems as well as frequent sickness and absences can greatly reduce a young person's ability to get the most from school or life.

Choosing More Time for Students: The What, Why, and How of Extended Learning

Center for American Progress, August 2007
The expansion of learning time can serve as an effective vehicle to modernize our schools because it allows teachers, principals, community organizations and leaders, and parents to build multiple curriculums to best educate our children to succeed in the 21st century. To navigate through this forthcoming and thorough-going school reform effort, this paper will define what expanded learning time means, highlight what model programs look like when used effectively, and address how to successfully implement such reform efforts. 

Three Years into Chicago's Community Schools Initiative (CSI) - Progress Challenges, and Emerging Issues
The University of Illinois at Chicago, March 2007
Since 2002, Sam Whalen, Ph.D., and his team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago's (UIC) have been conducting an evaluation of the Chicago Public School's Community Schools Initiative, a groundbreaking effort to take to scale the community school model.

Shared Features of High-Performing After-School Programs: A Follow-Up to the TASC Evaluation
Policy Studies Associates, Inc., November 2005
This report provides a comprehensive overview of factors found to be critical to participants in after-school programs with successful outcomes. Common features of high-performing programs include: an array of enrichment opportunities; opportunities for skill building; intentional relationship development; a strong leader supported by well-trained and well-supervised staff, and; broad support of the sponsoring organization. The report goes into detail about how these factors play out in actual programs.

Building More Effective Community Schools: A Guide to Key Ideas, Effective Approaches, and Technical Assistance Resources for Making Connections Cities and Site Teams
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Center for the Study of Public Policy, 2000
This report provides an overview of the necessary components of a community school, the needs that such programs can address, and the possible challenges faced in implementation of the community school model. The report includes a list of contacts in 22 cities for organizations that have provided technical assistance and program development activities to community school programs in their areas.