The following is a guest blog post from Martin Blank and Reuben Jacobson at the Coalition for Community Schools and Institute for Educational Leadership. The Coalition for Community Schools, housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership, is an alliance of national, state and local organizations in education K-16, 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.Their upcoming national forum will take place April 9-11, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Strong neighborhoods require strong schools. Strong schools require strong neighborhoods. That’s what teachers, community members and organizers, nonprofit and higher education leaders, faith-based groups, United Ways, and neighborhood leaders will be talking about at the 2014 Community Schools National Forum in Cincinnati April 9-11.
A community school functions as a unique and essential center of the neighborhood -- a place where the resources of school and community are aligned to support students’ academic and non-academic development. Together with community partners, including human services nonprofits of many kinds, community schools provide academic, physical, social, emotional, and enrichment opportunities and supports to our nation’s vulnerable children; and they strengthen families so that they are better able to support their children’s education.
The theme for this year’s Forum is Community Schools: The Engine of Opportunity. It’s a theme that reflects our commitment to equal opportunity for all students, and the belief that that community schools, with their deep and sustained partnerships between schools and community organizations and institutions, are the “engine” that will prepare our young people to succeed. This Forum comes at a key moment in time. There is a growing conversation about the importance of student engagement in learning, and the influence of out-of-school factors, including poverty, on student achievement. Community schools and their partners work in both areas knowing that there is no “silver bullet,” no one program, that can accomplish the work we need to increase opportunity, decrease inequity and help young people succeed.
The conference is being held in Cincinnati because of their successful Community Learning Centers initiative that has recently been featured on NBC’s Education Nation, Marketplace, and The New York Times. This district-wide community school strategy (community schools are called ‘community learning centers’ in Cincinnati), represents a unique and sustained partnership between the school district, school board, teachers union, and more than 400 community partner organizations. Cincinnati is demonstrating how partnerships can help schools fulfill their core academic mission while offering students the opportunities and supports they need and deserve to thrive.
The Forum will cover a variety of topics such as community organizing and community schools, the relationship between community schools and other place-based initiatives (including Promise Neighborhoods and Cradle-to-Career); engaging learning; expanded learning; and family community and engagement.
In addition to engaging site visits and workshops, the Forum will include presentations from: Christopher Edley, Co-Chair of the Commission on Excellence and Equity; Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers; Senator Carol Liu, Chair of the California Senate Education Committee; Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra; Rev. William Barber, Chair North Carolina NAACP; Ralph Smith, Senior Vice President, Annie E. Casey Foundation; Hedy Chang, Director, Attendance Works; Michael McAfee, Director, Promise Neighborhoods Institute; Dianne Piche, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Joseph Bishop, National Opportunity to Learn Campaign; and Ira Harkavy, Director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania.
To learn more about the Forum and to register, please go to www.communityschools.org.