Addressing education inequality with a next generation of community schools: A blueprint for mayors, states, and the federal government
During few times in America's history has leadership in education been more critical. Far too many communities continue to face the enduring impacts of systematic racism and generational poverty. The nation's schools have also been impacted by COVID-19 and, for many, the effects are staggering and could last for years. At the same time, as the pandemic shuttered school doors across the country, numerous education allies rose to the occasion--from families to community nonprofits to employers to media companies. Taken altogether, this situation presents a series of linked challenges, as well as what may be a once-in-a-century opportunity to reimagine school in ways that nurture the gifts and talents of every child and family. By seizing the moment, America can lay the foundation for a new way of schooling that the nation needs--one that is flexible, customized to local needs and equitable, and that brings together educators, communities, and families to support every student every day. This will require an immediate investment in the scaling of a proven solution that addresses educational inequities and leapfrogs our school system toward a new way of teaching and learning that honors local assets and helps students develop the competencies and skills they need to thrive in work, life, and citizenship. The Brookings Institution's Task Force on Next Generation Community Schools, recommends the transformation of U.S. schools into community schools, centering initial efforts on the 4 percent of school districts that educate approximately 40 percent of the country's children, include urban and rural communities across the nation, and have the greatest concentration of unmet student needs. Community schools would integrate, rather than silo, the services that children and families need, thus ensuring that funding for health, mental health, expanded learning time, and social services is well spent and effective. Therefore, this report recommends four steps to scale a next generation of community schools' nationally: (1) prioritize; (2) promote; (3) innovate; and (4) sustain. By taking an approach of progressive universalism, the mayors, states, and the federal government would rapidly reach the greatest numbers of students and families most in need of support today and create a critical mass of schools that embody a powerful and community-informed educational approach that closes the equity gap and lays the foundation for 21st century teaching and learning.