Initiated out of the efforts of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) , the Community School Task Force of Philadelphia is a coalition of community advocates, youth, parents, and educators who are committed to the enactment of community schools as a strategy to support the transformation of Philadelphia’s public school system. We think community schools:
- are public, democratic institutions where students, parents, school workers, and the community have a real voice. To make this happen, governance structures that are transparent and accountable must be put into place at the city and school level
- increase accessibility to services and supports needed by students and their families while ensuring that certified professionals are not replaced. Every community school needs a full time coordinator to bring together the school community with the resources, outside social, health, and other services needed. The school will become a hub of community life. Partnerships will be essential but must work side-by-side with school- based professional staff including nurses, librarians, counselors, and others.
- promote learning with an engaging, culturally relevant curriculum that develops critical thinking, creativity, and respect for diversity. All students deserve rigorous, engaging, culturally relevant curriculum that builds on their interests, experiences, and knowledge. All schools must offer high-level course work, all facets of the arts and social sciences, health, nutrition, physical ed, and ESOL. Teachers need effective professional development to strengthen their ability to do this work and to deeply engage with each other and with their students.
- implement positive school discipline, mutual respect, and a safe environment. A community school is an opportunity to build a new kind of school climate that alleviates or greatly reduces harsh discipline practices such as suspensions, expulsions, and arrests and instead, engages in restorative practices so that students learn and grow from their mistakes and remain a part of the community. Every member of the school community needs training and support in making this shift.
- need full and equitable funding. While the core of community schools is not expensive and in fact can be very cost-effective, all schools need to be fully resourced. We can’t let community schools become a substitute for equitable funding. We must all continue to fight for, among other things, an equitable state funding formula, an end to corporate loopholes, as well as tap into federal resources, such as presented by ESSA .
- call for a new metric for measuring success. In addition to traditional metrics like graduation rates and test results, we need measures of school climate, afterschool enrollment, parental engagement, and more. We need both qualitative and data-driven benchmarks and participatory evaluations that are reported out to the broader community in public meetings.
Motivated by this vision of a community schools strategy, the task force is deeply involved in both engaging local political officials as well as educating others about the strategy in order to expand and nurture our collective awareness of what a community school is, and how it fits as a strategy of social change.
Logo created by the Community School Task Force