Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Community Schools - Should Public Education Provide More Than Academics

One of the primary arguments behind "ending summer vacation" and extending the school year to year-round schedules is that students lose ground when they are away from school. These losses are not just in academics, but also in the reality of providing structure to kids whose lives outside school can be quite chaotic. For many students, school can be the one place where they can count on a meal for the day, and it might be the only place they can access health care. So, there is a movement on the rise to create more Community Schools - turning school buildings into year-round operations that provide all manner of social services from health care to food stamps to family counseling.

Of course, doing so would obviously require much greater funding for public education - an issue that is certainly not a foregone conclusion. However, there is bi-partisan support in Congress for expanding the reach of "Community Schools," as explained in a recent column from Democrat Steny Hoyer for EdWeek.org. There is no doubt that opening schools year-round to provide all sorts of government services could dramatically improve the lives of children in economically challenged communities. And many private and charter school programs that do more than provide academic classes from 8-3 for a traditional year have proved the ability to make a difference. Geoffery Canada's Harlem Children's Zone is an example.

In "A Teacher's View," the only rule for improving education and achievement in the lives of kids is that it works. If expanding the reach of schools throughout the year to provide more support is successful, and it is the most cost effective way of doing so, then communities should pursue it. Of course, this approach should be pursued at the state and local level, and it should not be implemented as a standard for uniformity for all communities.

Whatever works.

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