Community Schools

The Coalition for Community Schools (Coalition) is an alliance of national, state, and local organizations in K-16 education, youth development, community planning and development, family support, health and human services, government and philanthropy as well as national, state, and local community school networks. The site provides an excellent primer on what community schools are, and also provides extensive information regarding the research and results of community schools. The site also has information specific to each state’s community schools legislation.

The Federation for Community Schools (Federation) believes all Illinois children should have equal access to a high quality education that supports their academic, physical, social, and emotional development. The Federation’s mission is preserve, promote, and sustain community schools through policy changes, professional development, and programmatic advancements. The Federation’s work and research on community schools is of particular interest. The site includes links to community school profiles, videos on their work, a map of community schools in Illinois, and supporting research and evaluations.

The National Center for Community Schools (Center) is dedicated to building the capacity of schools, districts, community partners and government agencies to organize their human and financial resources around student success. The Center does this work by providing practical, innovative training, consultation, facilitation, materials and advocacy. The Center helps develop comprehensive community schools and enhance existing school-community partnerships and currently have a number of clients in the Chicago area. In addition to the technical assistance the Center provides, their site contains a resource page with links to FAQs, newsletters, documents and tools, and a virtual site visit of the organization’s flagship community school.

Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child, (WSCC) is a model utilized by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). WSCC utilizes schools as the collaboration point for providing health and educational support to individuals, society, and the economy. The WSCC model combines and builds on elements of the traditional coordinated school health approach and the whole child framework. The WSCC model is an ecological approach that is directed at the whole school, with the school in turn drawing its resources and influences from the whole community. ASCD and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage use of the model as a framework for improving students’ learning and health in our nation’s schools.

Family Engagement

Be Strong Families (BSF) is national organization of parents working to strengthen families from the inside out. The network believes parents can be a force for social transformation and promotes the empowered engagement of vulnerable parents, youth, children, and extended family members to nurture the spirit of the family and promote well-being, healing, and peace. A specific initiative of BSF is Strengthening Families Illinois, a statewide movement to build six Protective Factors that keep families strong. The network is made up of parent leaders that are working to mobilize thousands of families in their communities. The site provides information on training opportunities and resources specific to parents.

Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) is an organization of leaders, primarily mothers and grandmothers, that has trained thousands of parents in tough neighborhoods. COFI’s mission is to strengthen the power and voice of low-income and working families at all levels of civic life – from local institutions and communities to state and federal policy arenas. COFI’s website provides significant resources and information for how parents can get trained and engaged in this work. COFI’s innovative parent leadership and community organizing model, Family Focused Organizing, has engaged thousands of low-income African American and Latino parents in improving preschools, schools, communities and public policies in Chicago, Illinois and beyond.

The Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) challenges leaders at all levels to shake off their institutional constraints and work across boundaries to address the needs of young people and their families. IEL’s tools and resource page provides a tremendous amount of information including online guidance, draft frameworks on community schools, reports on community schools and best practices, and information specific to leaders of community schools. Their our work page provides links to information on leadership, professional development, innovative strategies, and featured initiatives.

The Parent Mentor Program (PMP) is a nationally-recognized parent engagement model that builds deep and lasting relationships between students, teachers, and parents.  PMP engages community organizations to partner with schools and recruit approximately 10 parents per school to assist teachers two hours every day. The website offers expansive information on parental engagement in the form of webinars, written research and policy papers, links to already-existing programs within schools, and information on successful community school models that have been utilized by PMP. Of special interest is the information regarding their Parent Engagement Institute which provides training, coaching and mentoring to spread the Parent Mentor Program model throughout Illinois.

The Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project is an inexpensive and easily replicated model of family engagement that has been proven to end the cycle of blame between families and school staff by building trust and respect, instilling cultural competency and increasing personal and professional capacity for all involved. This model began in Sacramento, California but has since been adopted and adapted by schools and districts in seventeen other states. The organization’s website features a downloadable information packet and video along with sample forms and surveys and news on upcoming trainings.