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The Colorado Department of Education supports community schools as an evidence-based strategy for school improvement. The information below describes the three essential components of a community school (a strategic plan, a Community School Coordinator, and alignment of the Four Pillars) and provides information about key legislation and resources that support this strategy in Colorado.
Community schools conduct annual needs and assets assessments of and by the school community that engages at least 75% of families, students, and educators in the community. The school uses data analysis to develop and update a strategic plan that:
- outlines the community school’s vision, mission, and values;
- identifies areas of strength in the school and community that the school with draw and areas of need that the school will address;
- describes key initiatives aligned with each community school pillar listed below;
- describes the process used to engage partners who bring assets and expertise to support implementation;
- creates problem-solving teams composed of school and community stakeholders dedicated to implementation and continuous improvement;
- provides an overview of existing and prospective funding;
- and outlines a progress monitoring and evaluation plan.
Community School Coordinator
The Community School Coordinator is an essential school staff member who:
- serves as a member of the school leadership team;
- assembles and regularly convenes stakeholders;
- leads the analysis of school needs and assets and the development, implementation, and monitoring of the strategic plan;
- facilitates problem-solving teams;
- and is responsible for developing, coordinating, and sustaining partnerships with individuals and service agencies that provide services to the school community.
The Four Pillars of Community Schools
Pillar 1: Integrated Student Supports
Community schools take a “whole child” approach to supporting students’ educational and life success by providing and coordinating a range of on-site services and supports that address academic and non-academic needs. While every community will identify unique needs, most commonly these services and supports include: medical, dental and healthcare services (often in the form of school-based health centers); tutoring and other academic supports; and resources for families such as housing assistance or clothing and food banks. The Community School Coordinator is responsible for developing, coordinating, and sustaining partnerships with service providers and organizing service delivery.
Pillar 2: Expanded and Enriched Learning Time and Opportunities
Community schools provide students with as much as one-third more learning opportunities through out-of-school time (before school, after school, fifth-day, weekend, and summer) programs. Well-structured out-of-school time programming is offered through collaboration between the school and community partners. CDE’s Office of Student Supports has a team of out-of-school time specialists and an expansive resource library to support planning and implementation of this pillar.
Pillar 3: Active Family and Community Engagement
Community schools promote meaningful and authentic collaboration and consistent interaction between families, administration, and families. A community school functions as a community hub where adults have educational opportunities and serve as equal patterns in promoting students’ academic success. CDE’s Office of Family-School-Community Partnerships has a team of specialists and an expansive resource library to support planning and implementation of this pillar.
Pillar 4: Collaborative Leadership and Practices
Community schools establish shared vision and goals and implement participatory practices for distributing responsibilities that leverage each stakeholder’s expertise and strengths. Community schools employ an expansive and shared leadership model that includes students, families, community members, leaders of community-based organizations, representatives from local government agencies, and higher education partners. Community schools intentionally support the capacity-building of all stakeholders involved in this shared leadership model. Community School Coordinators serve as a key member of the school leadership team who shares authority and responsibility with the principal for monitoring progress and leads continuous improvement.