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 in the United States 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.
What We Learned From This Work
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.
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.
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
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.
Here’s Who’s Helping Write the Next Chapter in This Continuing Story
Find out who’s on the forefront of the ongoing work