Monday, August 15, 2011

Report Highlights the Integration of Sustainable Communities and Education

The What Works Collaborative and the Center for Cities & Schools have jointly published “Opportunity-Rich Schools and Sustainable Communities: Seven Steps to Align High-Quality Education with Innovations in City and Metropolitan Planning and Development.” Recognizing that academic success is fueled by high-quality education, as well as access to resources and systems of support throughout critical periods of youth development, this report highlights the importance of addressing schools in community development initiatives. Initiatives promoted by Obama Administration, such as the Promise Neighborhoods, Sustainable Communities and Choice Neighborhoods programs, articulate the need for collaboration amongst diverse stakeholders to address the comprehensive needs of children and families. However, integrating school improvement goals with community development goals can be challenging. For example, school improvement efforts tend to be more narrowly focused on teacher quality, achievement testing or other measures rather than considering the ways an entire neighborhood may shape a student’s academic experiences.

The report includes seven key steps intended to aid community planners and practitioners as they integrate education in the conversation of sustainable community development. The seven steps include:
  1. Get to know your educational landscape. Focusing on the school infrastructure, educational policies and demographics that contribute to student success, such school boundaries and the funding allotted to each zone, will aid land-use planning and other community development projects.
  2. Engage School Leaders, Families, and Young People in Planning and Development. Engaging school personnel, students and families brings a resident voice to the community development table and can shed light on various issues, including education.
  3. Establish a Shared Vision and Metrics Linking High-Quality Education to Economic Prosperity at Community and Regional Levels. Adopting a shared vision that connects the interdependency of community and educational prosperity will help to hold all stakeholders accountable for community development goals, including education.
  4. Support the Whole Life of Learners Through Services and Amenities. Developing a comprehensive system of support, including enrichment programs, after-school options and access to healthcare and healthy foods, will meet the comprehensive needs of students and promote academic success outside of the classroom.
  5. Align Bricks-and-Mortar Investments for Regional Prosperity. Building and/or improving school buildings can ensure that schools are located in communities with little access to transportation and may help to establish space for community-based events or meetings.
  6. Maximize Access to Opportunity Through Affordable Transportation. Increasing the amount of school choices available, aligning transit with routes to local schools and ensuring that students and families are able to pay for transit options can enhance the academic opportunities for students and improve community mobility.
  7. Institutionalize What Works to Secure Gains and Ensure Ongoing Innovation. Establishing innovative partnerships with community stakeholders and establishing a “two-way system of accountability” where schools and communities are accountable for each other can leverage diverse resources and create community engagement.
For the complete report, please click here.

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