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Community Partnerships to Support Children and Youth as Learners



Web Links


Expanded Learning


Smart Education Systems



Institute for Youth, Education and Families




Annenberg Institute Research Findings



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

So What

Web Links


Iowa Youth Survey


40 Developmental Assets



America’s Promise


Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development














Community culture impacts the learning of children and youth.
Iowa Data: Iowa Youth Survey
One way to evaluate how well Iowa’s community members are doing in supporting the children and youth is through the Iowa Youth Survey.  Since 1999 students in grades 6, 8, and 11 in almost every school district in Iowa have participated in the Iowa Youth Survey. The survey is a collaborative effort conducted by the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Education, the Office of Drug Control Policy, the Iowa Department of Human Services, and the Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning in the Department of Human Rights.

Versions of the survey have been administered to various students since 1975. In 2005, 98.4% of Iowa’s school districts and 13.9% of non-public schools in the state participated in the survey. Because of this widespread use of the survey, it can be said that it reflects the perceptions, attitudes and behaviors of Iowa youth.

Many of the questions focus on substance abuse and other destructive behaviors of teens to help organizations plan education, prevention, and support programming. Other questions focus on the existence of the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets which result in less risky behaviors among youth and can also promote academic success. When the spotlight is focused on the research-based external assets that community youth receive through their families and the community, organizations can consider opportunities for alignment, as described in complementary learning, to provide stronger support to all families and youth in the community.

Reports for the Iowa Youth Survey statewide data is available on the website listed above. Reports are also available on the website for each AEA and county in the state. Local district data are sent directly to the superintendent of schools to distribute at will. Most schools use the data to report to the community on Safe and Drug-free Schools indicators.

Iowa Initiatives
In Iowa several efforts have been underway to bring together the organizations in communities to align their efforts to ensure all Iowa children learn at high levels.

Iowa’s Promise
Iowa’s Promise is aligned with the national America’s Promise campaign,  which is focused on providing all children with:
 -Caring Adults: Ongoing relationships with caring adults—parents, mentors, tutors, or coaches—who offer youth support, care, and guidance.
 -Safe Places: Safe places with structured activities during non-school hours to provide both physical and emotional safety.
 -A Healthy Start: Adequate nutrition, exercise, and health care that pave the way for healthy bodies, healthy minds, and smart habits for adulthood.
 -Marketable Skills: Marketable skills through effective education to help youth navigate the transition from school to work successfully.
 -Opportunities to Serve: Opportunities to give back through community service in ways that enhance self-esteem, boost self-confidence, and heighten a sense of responsibility to the community.

Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development
In 2004 the following Iowa government agencies made a commitment to work together to impact the learning of all Iowa students:
 • Governor’s Office;
 • Iowa Workforce Development;
 • Iowa Department of Economic Development;
 • Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Department of Human Rights
 • Iowa State University Extension;
 • Iowa Department of Human Services;
 • Iowa Community Empowerment;
 • Iowa Department of Public Health;
 • Iowa Department of Education.

The directors of these governmental agencies reached consensus on results they would focus on together to “produce the results Iowa’s citizens want for all their children and youth—that they are:
 • successful in school;
 • healthy and socially competent;
 • prepared for productive adulthood; and
 • in safe, supportive schools, families, and communities.”
Various data reports on these results can be found under the Planners/Grant Writers button on the website.

Some of the ways to address these promises are through schools, but the IA Collaborative also identifies key principles for School-Community-Family Collaborations working together:
 • Agencies and organizations work together so that all needs are addressed.
 • Families are strengthened to help their children be successful learners.
 • Schools and community organizations/institutions align their efforts to reach student-learning goals.
 • Schools, families, and communities work together to support academic achievement and to reduce barriers to learning.

Iowa State University Extension to Families reaches out to families across the lifespan.

Extension to Families strives to promote healthy people, healthy economies, and healthy environments. It provides research-based information and education to help families make decisions that improve and transform their lives.

Specialists work with the College of Human Sciences at Iowa State University and work in partnership with other organizations and agencies to meet the needs of Iowa families.

Now What



IPTV Messages for families












Parents need a supportive community to develop the knowledge and skills to help their children learn at high levels.

Easy Access to Information and Skills

Messages about how families can help their children at home to be successful learners do not have to be evening meetings which require parents to come to the school. It is often very difficult for busy parents with two jobs or multiple after-school activities with their children to get to school meetings, even when they want to. The message also becomes more powerful when several respected organizations throughout the community are encouraging families and the community to become active partners in the learning of all youth.
Messages to help families and communities develop the knowledge and skills to support children as learners can be communicated in a wide variety of places where parents are as part of their normal daily routine:
   •  In the workplace through brown bag lunch sessions where employees can come together and learn about supporting their children as learners and network with other parents about strategies they use in their homes;
   • At faith-based institutions as part of the adult religious education programs or in church bulletins.
   •  In grocery stores through information signage in produce or nutrition sections of the store to learn about which foods enhance learning.
   •  In banks or chamber of commerce brown bag lunch sessions for employers to discuss how encourage high levels of learning among their school-age employees.
   •  At recreation centers as a follow-up social networking opportunity for league participants.
   •  In the library as a book club discussion group.
   •  Through newspaper articles interviewing families about strategies they use at home to encourage their children to be successful learners.
   •  In city mailings such as water bills with short messages about what each person can do to impact the learning of the children and youth in the community.
   •  Through weekend social activities for families encouraging physical health and/or learning experiences.
 Focus on research-based practices
What are the messages that communities can share to encourage high levels of learning for all children and youth in the community? Most of proven practices that impact the learning of children and youth are fairly simple.


Being healthy helps kids learn better!  This means having good nutrition, lots of physical activity, and adequate sleep.


Learning at home helps kids learn routines and sets an environment for learning beyond the classroom.


Love and limits helps kids learn.  An authoritative parenting style sets limits and teaches appropriate behaviors.


Community culture helps kids learn through common community goals and a family friendly culture.  What can be challenging is being strategic about encouraging everyone in the community to embrace, model and promote the practices as part of the community culture. Providing the messages will not be enough. Community agencies whose purpose it is to help families thrive will also need to work together to provide parents with to learn and practice strategies that work.











So What
Now What

Essential Learnings

  1. Programs and Interventions that engage families in supporting their children’s learning at home are linked to higher student achievement.
  2. The continuity of family involvement at home appears to have a protective effect on children as they progress through our complex education system
  3. Families of all cultural backgrounds, education, and income levels encourage their children, talk with them about school...
  4. Parent and community involvement that is linked to student learning has a great effect on achievement than more general forms of involvement...


checked checkbox Birth to 5
checked checkbox Elementary
checked checkbox Middle School
checked checkbox High School

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