The Community School strategy is a proven strategy that transforms historically struggling schools into thriving schools. Community Schools should be a central strategy for achieving an equitable educational system in Milwaukee. Community Schools offer an integrated focus on academics, health and mental health services, youth development, expanded learning opportunities and family and community supports to ensure students are ready and able to learn. Specifically, all Milwaukee Community Schools should utilize a strategy that incorporates the following six approaches:
1. Curricula that are engaging, culturally relevant, and challenging. Schools offer a robust selection of classes and after-school programs in the arts, languages, and ethnic studies, as well as Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses. Also offered are services for English Language Learner and special education students, GED preparation programs, and job training. Pedagogy is student- centered.
2. An emphasis on high-quality teaching, not on high-stakes testing. Assessments are used to help teachers meet the needs of students. Educators have a real voice in professional development. Professional development is high-quality and ongoing, and includes strengthening understanding of, and professional alignment with, the Transformational Community School strategy.
3. Wrap-around supports and opportunities such as health care, eye care, and social and emotional services that support academics. These services are available before, during, and after school, and are provided year-round to the full community. Community partners are accountable and culturally competent. The supports are aligned to the classroom using thorough and continuous data collection, analysis, and reflection. Space for these services is allocated within the building or within walking distance.
4. Positive discipline practices, such as restorative justice and social and emotional learning supports are stressed so that students can grow and contribute to the school community and beyond. School safety and positive school climate are achieved through these mechanisms. Suspensions and harsh punishments are eliminated or greatly reduced.
5. Authentic parent and community engagement is promoted so the full community actively participates in planning and decision-making. This process recognizes the link between the success of the school and the development of the community as a whole.
6. Inclusive school leadership who are committed to making the Transformational Community School strategy integral to the school’s mandate and functioning. They ensure that the Community School Coordinator is a part of the leadership team and that a Community School Committee (Committee)—which includes parents, community partners, school staff, youth, and other stakeholders that are representatives of the school’s various constituencies—has a voice in the planning and implementation of the strategy.
Community Schools achieve success by implementing the above strategies through the following mechanisms:
- An asset and needs assessment of and by both school and community;
- A strategic plan that defines how educators and community partners will use all available assets to meet specific student needs and get better results;
- The engagement of partners who bring assets and expertise to help implement the building blocks of Community Schools
- A Community School Coordinator whose job is to facilitate the development and implementation of the strategic plan in collaboration with school and community members/partners, and to ensure alignment of solutions to needs.
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