Part Four: Transforming Data into Action
Expanding and tracking learning opportunities opens up the ability for districts to properly implement, monitor and manage their Mult-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) initiatives, as well as opening more more opportunities to individualize and adapt instruction to the learners’ needs, abilities, and interests, ultimately improving learning achievement. Connecting students with tutors that can give them the individualized attention they need sets students up for academic success.
Only 42 percent of employers feel students have proficient professionalism, perseverance, and communication skills upon entering the workforce. Community Schools using partner catalogs can connect students with internships and job shadowing that develop vital skills for the workplace.
Birth to Kinder Care
As more initiatives and funding open up for early education, it is important to incorporate supports for children from birth to five years old, especially because they do not yet have the access they should inside a classroom. Providing and expanding early care and education services for this age group is an important facet to the Community School model.
Until recently, schools did not have the financial support to offer programs to children before kindergarten. Research shows students with access to educational support earlier in life consistently test higher in literacy and mathematics skills⁴. Community Schools aim to fill this gap and intentionally target this age group knowing that they do not yet have access to the same degree of school resources.
Connecting with partners that specifically cater to and include this age group is a necessary step to getting birth to kinder students the support they need. Partner catalogs can be used here to filter these age groups specifically and connect younger kids to partners that can cater to their needs.
Monitor and Assess
Administrators coming from a traditional school model have practice monitoring metrics on academics by gathering data assessments, grades, and so on. Our changing landscape has made it imperative to monitor and assess wellness as a part of the student’s overall academic portfolio. This data, when paired and analyzed side-by-side with academic and other data, helps ups gain a holistic view of each child, ultimately furthering their success and support.
Using a digital infrastructure that provides multifaceted supports for all parts of the child (i.e. well-being, academic health, social health, etc.) is crucial to tracking and reporting on the success of the Whole Child. This type of system allows you to:
Compile longitudinal data from all parts of the child, which allows you to see the students past and current success at a glance. Report on student success, as well as tangential success of specific school initiatives easily, as all data is collected and connected in one place.
Funding for the Long-term
Adopting a Community School model means sustaining the same life-enriching practices put in place for student success well after an initial push. Funding Community Schools typically relies on grants and Title I funds. ESSER funds, CCSPP (California Community Schools Partnership Program), and other grants are all resources that can be used to fund your school’s transition to/acceleration of a Community School model. But it is imperative, as you plan to review, to determine how your Community School will be sustainable post grant-funding opportunities.
When considering how you’ll fund your Community School, you also need to consider what metrics you must track from day one. You’ll need the tools in place to easily track those metrics to demonstrate success to grant providers and other funding sources. For instance, ADA funding is proportional to school attendance, and more specifically to the attendance reported by the school to the U.S. Department of Education. Being able to easily track attendance with digital supports that prioritize accurate reporting means your school will collect the most ADA funding it’s eligible for—not leaving anything on the table due to poor data tracking.
It’s important to determine how your Community School will stay funded over the long-term. Without this kind of forward thinking, your students won’t be able to realize the success that comes from a sustained effort in implementing a Community School model. It can be helpful to partner with an organization that knows the ins and outs of Community School funding, and can help you develop a plan that meets the needs of your school’s initiative. These types of partners can help you outline the different phases of your project, the best source of funding for each phase, and what types of data you’ll need to make your initiative successful.
In a Policy Brief by Hayin Kimner, Policy Analysis for California Education, Kimner writes, “An effective Community School recognizes that student success does not rely solely on the expertise of instructional professionals but is also the result of shared accountability among students, educators, families, and community partners. The purpose of Community Schools is first and foremost to support students’ academic success by offering ambitious instruction, a student-centered learning climate, and a comprehensive whole-child and “science of learning and development” design approach. Community Schools have often been heralded for their work in expanding the school day and offering academic support and enrichment before and after school as part of “letting teachers teach.” Whether your school is a Community School, or your district is working to improve learning outcomes, this is solid advice and another tenet of Community Schools that can work for everyone.
In a California Teachers Association blog by Julian Peeples, the author states, “The Community Schools model is aimed at disrupting poverty and addressing long-standing inequities, highlighting areas of need, and leveraging community resources so students are healthy, prepared for college and ready to succeed. A community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources with an integrated focus on academics, health and social services, leadership, and community engagement. Since each Community School is centered around local needs and priorities, no two look exactly alike. But they all share a commitment to partnership and rethinking how best to provide the resources students and families need.”
The states that are making the strongest commitments to community schooling, California, Indiana and others, are making remarkable strides at not only closing the learning gap but addressing the needs of their youth and educator populations that have been battered, beleaguered and beseeched by a pandemic and its aftermath. But it is important to realize that it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. For schools and districts that are not on the Community School track, there is much to be learned from existing Community Schools and those that are in-process of becoming Community Schools.
Take advantage of the opportunity that our recent circumstances have delivered, the concept of connectivity, the now available technology and the well-defined pillars that make Community Schools possible. We are all in this together, and those in Community Schools are more than happy to share their wisdom with you.
About the author
Zach Vander Veen has worn many hats in education, including history teacher, technology coach, administrator, and director of technology. He loves learning, teaching, traveling and seeking adventures with his family. Currently, Zach is the co-founder and Senior VP of Innovation and Outcomes at Abre.io, an education management platform.