Good Example Of Essay On Learning Communities – Setting Up A Community School
A community school is a state-funded school that serves not only as an educational institution but also as a centre for community activities. The Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) describes community schools as "both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources.” Community schools use public schools as community centers and offer a variety of services for children, youth, and families. Many of the activities initiated by community schools are carried out after school hours or on weekends (IEL).
For the purpose of this task, we have identified a community school in our area and examined the challenges faced by the school. We also examined the process of setting up a community school.
Background and Overview
In the rural areas there are many families from low economic backgrounds. Many of these families are immigrants belonging to different cultures. Given their socio-economic status, the youth in these families are often forced to forego education in favour of working to supplement the family income. Because of these circumstances and the problems incidental to them, there is large number of drop-outs from school. In such a situation, the traditional educational system which is inflexible, fails to meet the educational needs of the community. Community schools on the other hand are flexible by nature. Using the infrastructure of public schools, learning communities can be established that will assist the community in general and the educational needs of the youth in particular. Community schools can therefore assist in educating the youth in such areas.
Components of Community Schools
According to the Blank, Berg, & Melaville, (2006) in Centre for Mental Health in Schools (2008), a community school is a place where community resources unite with school authorities to provide a better learning atmosphere for students. It is a partnership between schools and other resources within the community. Community schools focus not only on academics but also on health, social service, family support, and community development including development of youth. Community schools must therefore serve the basic purpose of any school and provide a core program for instructions. Along with academics, motivational programs must be organized with the aid of community resources so that the students are encouraged to learn. Facilities must be provided for meeting not only the physical but also the mental health of students. An environment of mutual respect among students, their families, and the staff providing the facilities must be encouraged (Centre for Mental Health in Schools, 2008).
Challenges for Community Schools
Since community schools are expected to provide not only academics but also work towards betterment of the community, there are certain typical challenges faced by community schools. The European Network of Education Councils (EUNEC) enumerates these challenges in a white paper entitled Community Schools. According to EUNEC (2013), schools look at the community from an academic perspective. There is a need to broaden this perspective to include mental and emotional health of the students by encouraging family involvement, better communication between parents and teachers, and a greater responsibility for the overall well being of the students. This can be achieved by changing the mode of operation and proper infrastructure. It is not sufficient for the school to provide its premises for use by community activists. There must be an active involvement on the part of the school staff, both teaching an administrative, towards achieving the goal of betterment of the community. Benchmarks will have to be set to evaluate the performance of the school and the extent of its involvement in community activities. The vision of the school will undergo a change. The schools will now focus not only on academics but also on community involvement. Both the teaching staff and administrative staff will have to be educated on the new vision and goals of the school. Short term achievement goals will have to be set for the individuals involved in the various programs. Long-term goals must be identified for each program as well as for the school. These are some of the challenges that community schools are facing.
In order to do this, schools require better funding.
Plan for Engaging the Community and Stake HoldersI would first ascertain the stake holders in the community school. These would include the school authorities – the principal and staff, the local government, the community centers involved in social activities, and the families of the students in the school.
Beginning with a comprehensive program for education of teachers and administrative staff, I would encourage better parent-teacher relationships. I would encourage parents to visit the school more frequently and meet with the teachers. The next step would be to organize programs and events involving parents and teachers. These programs could be social events, workshops, and social service activities. The social service activates would be organized with the aid of the local social service groups and organizations. The involvement of the government body would be to fund the various projects and monitor the activities of the school. Examples as models to begin your engagement program
Any school may be selected as a site for a community school. However, it is best if the selection is based on the needs of the community. The school must then partner with a local social service organization that can help the school establish itself as a community school. The organization or center will designate a member of its staff to co-ordinate with the school authorities. This co-coordinator will then engage in providing services and organizing programs. He will engage the families within the community to participate in various group activates and events. A team of teachers, parents, and businesses engaged by the co-coordinator will support the cause initiated by the center. The businesses will provide the funding while the parents and teachers will aid in organization of the events. Long and short term goals will be set by the co-coordinator and bench marks will be identified for evaluating progress. Many services such as medical services, cleaning the neighborhood, mentoring, tutoring, and adult education are designed for the entire community rather than just for the students of the school. It is important to engage the families within the community to participate in the programs and work towards the betterment of the community (United Way)
Political Emotional and Educational considerations
The foundation of any community school is based on a strong partnership between the social service organization, the school, and the local government. The socio-economic status of the community, the needs of the students and their families, and the support provided by the local government and the social service organization will determine the success of the community school. The stake holders should have a strong bond with one another. Each stake holder should be accountable for his share of the results. Clear targets should be set for each stake holder. These targets should be mutually agreed upon by all the stake holders. These targets should be high rather than low. Both short term and long term goals should be clearly defined. A definite plan for sustainability should be laid out at the outset. The inherent strengths of the community members should be engaged to the advantage of the entire community. These are some of the political educational and emotional considerations while designing the community school (The Federation for Community Schools).
A community school is a school that is run by a coalition between the state, the school authorities, and the local social service organization. The school caters to the non-academic needs of the community along with educational needs of the students. Setting up a community school requires a partnership between the school authorities, the local government, the social service organization in the community and the members of the community. The partners may be described as the primary stake holders in the school. There are some special considerations for setting up a community school. The bond between the partners must be strong. They must work together towards the common goal of providing educational and other services to the community. When planning the design of the school, the long term and short term goals of the school must be clearly stated keeping in mind the needs of the community for which the school is being setup. The responsibilities of each of the partners and their accountability must be specified. Long term sustainability plans must be designed to ensure that the school and serve the community to the fullest. Skills, strengths, and talents of the members of the community must be engaged to work for the whole community.
In this paper, we examined a model community school (United Way), and studied the requirements of setting up a community school. We learnt that setting up a learning community requires a clear understanding of the needs of the community and careful planning in order that the school is sustainable and serves the long-term needs of the community.
Center for Mental Health in Schools (2008) Community Schools:
EUNEC (2013) Community Schools European Network of Education Councils, Brussels, September 2013 Website: www.eunec.eu
IEL Institute for Educational Leadership, Website: http://www.iel.org/index.html
The Federation for Community Schools, Community School Transformation: A Guide for Schools, Districts, Parents, and Community Members; Website: www.ilcommunityschools.org,
United Way http://www.unitedwayglv.org/Community-Impact/Education/COMPASS/The-Community-School-Model.aspx
Working Toward Institutional Transformation Los Angeles, CA: Author, Website: http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/