A child spends 80% of his/her waking hours outside of the school setting.
Education: America’s Gatekeeper
Education is the gatekeeper for the future success of every child in the United States… …whether they are born in the United States or emigrated from another country;
…whether they speak English or are English-language-learners;
…whether they are born into homes of affluence, middle class, or poverty.
Whatever the circumstances, a young adult in the 21st century must be able to learn at high levels to live productive and healthy lives.
Economic, Social, and Civic Impact on a Community
The quality of educational experiences for the citizens young and old in a community also has an impact on the economic, social and civic quality of life in the community.
• Communities have difficulty recruiting new businesses or employees with high paying jobs if families cannot be assured of a high quality education for all children in the community.
• Communities whose citizens are highly educated tend to have higher employment rates, lower crime rates, and more interest in addressing the social needs of the community and families.
• Communities whose citizens are highly educated and employed also provide more support for quality of life infrastructure needs through taxes, government service, and charitable giving.
For that reason, research is focusing again on the impact the community can have on the learning of the children and youth in the community.
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
This ancient Chinese proverb is getting a renewed look regarding the impact of communities and organizations on the learning of the children and youth in the community. The concept is currently being researched or promoted by a number of entities across the nation including:
• The Harvard Family Research Project’s Expanded Learning
• The Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s Smart Education Systems
• The National Conference of State Legislatures’ Expanded Learning
• The National League of Cities' Institute for Youth, Education and Families
The Harvard Family Research Project’s (HFRP) most recent research focus related to student achievement is complementary learning, which focuses on the role of the community in the learning of children and youth.
The national conversation about how to better educate children— particularly those who are economically disadvantaged—and prepare them for success has shifted. The focus on the achievement gap and growing national debate about No Child Left Behind policy, results, and reauthorization has ignited the recognition that our schools alone cannot fully meet the learning needs of our children. Consequently, we see an increasing willingness at all levels—national, state, and local—to consider the types of nonschool supports and opportunities that can both complement learning in schools and collectively result in better developmental outcomes.
According the Heather Weiss, the founder and director of the Harvard Family Research Project, a network of learning supports are necessary for school and life success for children and youth. These supports include:
• Effective schools
• Supportive families and opportunities for family engagement
• Early childhood programs
• Out of school time activities (including sports, arts, mentoring programs, Scouts, 4-H)
• Heath and social services
• Community-based institutions (including community centers, faith-based institutions, cultural institutions such as museums and libraries, and partnerships with the business community)
• Colleges and universities
The goals of these organizations related to families and student learning need to complement one another to create an integrated, accessible set of community-wide resources to support learning and development(“Theory and Practice: Beyond the Classroom: Complementary Learning to Improve Achievement Outcomes,” The Evaluation Exchange, Spring 2005, p. 2)
Decades of research show that Complementary Learning supports…can be effective in promoting children’s learning and contributing to school success. However, we are realizing that these supports in the same old ways—piecemeal, in silos, disconnected from each other and from schools—will not achieve the goal of making sure children are successful both when they first enter school and after they’ve finished school.”
Nonschool supports for children and families need to:
• Be in place and accessible to all children;
• Be linked and aligned with each other and with schools to maximize their effectiveness in leveling the playing field for children.
Research Findings: Organized Communities, Stronger Schools
The Annenberg Institute for School Reform is also studying the impact of communities aligning their work to impact student outcomes as part of their Community Involvement Program. The research findings report "strong and consistent relationships between community organizing and policy and resource decisions, school-level improvements, and student outcomes.” The key findings include the following:
1. Organizing is contributing to school level improvements, particularly in the areas of:
a. School-community relationships
b. Parent involvement and engagement
c. Sense of school community and trust
d. Teacher collegiality
e. Teacher morale
2. Organizing strategies contributed to:
a. Increased student attendance
b. Improved standardized test-score performance
c. Higher graduation rates
d. Higher college-going aspirations
3. Organizing efforts impact policy and resource distribution “to increase equity and build capacity, particularly in historically low-performing schools.”
4. Participation in organization efforts is:
a. Increasing civic engagement
b. Increasing knowledge and investment in education issues among adult and community participants
5. Achieving the community and school impacts occurs through:
a. System-level advocacy
b. School- or community-based activity
c. Strategic use of research and data
6. Improvements are generated and sustained through “continuous and consistent parent, youth, and community engagement