Children & Youth Community Schools

It’s All Happening at School

United States | 2007 - 2014

Poverty. Discrimination. Poor educational opportunities. Limited access to quality healthcare. All are factors that can stymie a child’s future. To help young people overcome these challenges, some cities operate community schools that integrate academics and related supports with services that address health and social needs of their students. These schools also engage parents in activities that enable them to play a more active role in their children’s education, helping contribute to building stronger communities.

After making initial investments in other well-known and promising alternative school models, Atlantic chose to focus on Elev8, a national model operating in a select number of cities. Elev8 schools:

  • Extend learning opportunities for students beyond the classroom and traditional school year
  • Provide high-quality school-based health services to children and their families
  • Encourage parents to be actively involved in their children’s education
  • Offer family supports and resources designed to promote economic stability, good health and continuing education

From 2007-2014, Atlantic’s investments in Elev8 totaled $115 million.

Watch: Oakland youth, teachers, principals and parents share their views on how community schools prepare students to be "College, Career, & Community Ready."

What We Learned From This Work

  1. School system reform in low-income communities is complex, difficult and needs the right leadership. Funders taking on this work need to be patient, willing to stick with it for many years and to provide the appropriate level of support. Those are lessons we learned the hard way. We changed our school reform strategy mid-course and didn’t champion the project for sustained funding and resources. While we didn’t succeed at developing a widely-adopted national model, students who were enrolled in Elev8 schools reported high levels of efficacy, liked schools they attended, and valued school highly. Another lesson: funders and other partners can be a stabilizing force in schools and districts where there are high turnovers of principals and superintendents.

  2. Evidence showing success from the approach of integrating health services and family supports in schools can encourage principals to invest some of their discretionary funds to support these programs.

  3. Funding alone doesn’t institutionalize a program, initiative or movement. Identifying the right leaders, building capacity, and participation from staff and community participants are crucial to success and sustainability.

Elevating the Solution

High Marks

Preliminary evaluation results show that in some fully resourced Elev8 full service community schools, attendance rates and test scores improved and truancy rates dropped.

Spreading the Lessons

As a result of advocacy efforts by the School Based Health Alliance and others, the Affordable Care Act included $200 million for the renovation and construction of school-based health centers in select communities nationwide.

Community Schools on the Rise

Between 2007 and 2013, the number of places – cities, counties or districts – advancing the community school approach nearly tripled to 85 from 33.

Summaries of Case Studies, Evaluations & Reports

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