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Know Your Rights
Source: Capital New York
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Mayor-allied ed advocates push for detail on community schools

A coalition of education advocacy groups is calling for a better-defined policy from the city Department of Education on its new network of community schools.

Advocates from the Coalition for Educational Justice, a parent-led coalition of de Blasio-allied education groups, held a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday to push for a more detailed set of distinguishing elements for the schools.

“We’ve had different manifestations [of community schools] all across the country and city,” said Megan Hester, an organizing associate at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and a member of the D.O.E.’s community schools advisory board. “What does that mean here?”

The policy outlines a series of best practices for the community school model, including developing a community school team at each school, hiring full-time community school coordinators to create partnerships between outside organizations and the school, and creating data systems to analyze student academic data, along with attendance and other information.

The de Blasio administration has made community schools a hallmark of its education agenda, betting that turning 94 of the city’s lowest-performing schools into community schools, with wraparound social services and greater parent involvement than at ordinary schools, will improve outcomes.

The city has pledged $150 million to turn those 94 schools into community schools, and won a $52 million grant from the United Way to open 45 other community schools with attendance issues.

But even supporters of the community schools plan have called the administration’s policies too vague on the subject of how the schools would go about boosting student performances. Academic research is mixed about the effectiveness of community schools in improving academic performance for low-income students.

The coalition’s proposed policy calls for dedicated professional development for community school teachers, adequate space for social work and parent involvement, and regular evaluation of performance based on a detailed framework of outcomes.

Councilmembers Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, and Mark Treyger spoke in support of the community schools plan at Wednesday’s press conference, along with parents and community school leaders.

The coalition also partners with the Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers’ union-funded advocacy group, Make the Road New York, and other local advocacy groups.

A representative for the United Federation of Teachers spoke at the press conference, as did Christine Marinoni, who helps run the community schools program out of the D.O.E.

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