Taking “Extra” out of “Extra-Curricular”

Taking “Extra” out of “Extra-Curricular”

This blog post by Sarah McBroom was originally published April 3, 2019, by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF). We are grateful to WRF for allowing us to share its content, and we encourage you to click here to see the organization’s original content and learn more.

Click here to read “Community Schools: Support Outside the Classroom” from ForwARd Arkansas to find out how Community Schools effectively support rural students and families.

What if your kid could go to school, the dentist, and tee-ball practice while you went to yoga and got help with your taxes . . . all in one day, in one building?


ForwARd Arkansas and the Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools have taken action to develop a unique, regional Community Schools model to provide critical support for small rural districts. The result? Last month, the Arkansas Senate adopted a resolution to recognize Community Schools as a strong model to improve achievement and strengthen family and community engagement.

Community schools offer expanded learning and enrichment time with before-school, after-school, weekend, and summer programs for students and their families. Community Schools are a “one-stop shop” children and parents can count on for tutoring, music education, art opportunities, yoga classes, computer courses, adult literacy, GRE preparation . . . you name it, Community Schools do it.

The Community Schools model makes the schoolhouse a hub and a cornerstone for building a more vibrant place to live. Community Schools provide medical, dental, and vision care for students as well as mental health services, housing support, transportation, nutrition education, and immigrant-integration resources for youth and families.


We know that student success requires support beyond the classroom.

  • Research shows Community Schools improve academic achievement, reduce racial and economic achievement gaps, and increase daily school attendance as well as high school graduation rates.

  • Research also shows Community Schools provide a strong return on investment—up to $15 for every dollar invested.

  • Federal funding can be used to support Community Schools, and research shows this model meets the standard for “evidence-based approaches” to support schools identified for comprehensive and targeted support and intervention under the Every Student Succeeds Act.


All children need access to an excellent education in order to create a more equitable Arkansas. This will require innovative solutions that meet the unique needs of students and their families, especially in rural communities.

Click here to read “Community Schools: Support Outside the Classroom” from ForwARd Arkansas to find out how Community Schools effectively support rural students and families.

As program associate at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Sarah McBroom is responsible for providing management and administrative support to implement the Foundation’s education and community change strategies. She conducts research, analyzes data relevant to assessing progress toward Foundation goals, and coordinates program-related activities.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

Newsletter – March 2019

Newsletter – March 2019

Next Meeting – April 18, 2019, 11:30am

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools (ACCS) will have our next meeting on the third Thursday in April at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families: Union Station | 1400 West Markham, Suite 306 | Little Rock, AR 72201.

We are hoping the legislative session is over by then. If it’s not, we will email the group for members’ availability. I know we are all hoping it’s over by that time.

Senate Resolution 25 Adopted

Senators Joyce Elliott and Jim Hendren co-sponsored a Senate resolution in support of community schools. Thurman Green was there March 11th to help celebrate its adoption.

U.S. Dept. Education: Full-Service Community School Grant

This program provides support for the planning, implementation, and operation of full-service community schools that improve the coordination, integration, accessibility, and effectiveness of services for children and families.

Community Schools Close-up: Nashville TN

Nashville TN incorporated Community Achieves in its Ford Next Generation of Learning Schools Career Academies.

The Ford Foundation and Nashville Public Schools recognized that supporting students living in poverty was a critical resource for the success of their career academy program and in turn the students of Nashville. ForwARd Arkansas joined a team in early March looking at the programming and resources to improve achievement.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

The Case for Community Schools

The Case for Community Schools

Senate Resolution 25 was adopted March 11, 2019, by the Arkansas Senate. The resolution recognized the value of community schools in improving achievement and encouraging community and family engagement. Arkansas should adopt community schools just as neighboring states are doing for these reasons.

In 2018, Arkansas ranked 44th in the nation in child poverty. More than one in five children had families with incomes below the poverty line. This level of poverty is not evenly distributed across the state. Parts of the state have closer to five in five living in poverty.

Schools in high-poverty areas perform poorly. This is true in rural and urban areas of the country. In Arkansas for the 2016-17 school year, there were 205 schools with an 80 percent free and reduced lunch rate or higher. Of these schools, 18 (8.8 percent) received a letter grade of an A or B. Thirty schools with free and reduced lunch data had Fs. Only five of the “F” schools had a poverty level below 80 percent and only one was below 70 percent.

Research shows that poverty affects student learning. Several research studies report that stress and traumatic life associated with poverty result in changes within the brain. The differences can only be offset with targeted efforts to increase quality childhood experiences.

There are always exceptions in outcomes for high-poverty schools. Researchers write about the “silver bullets” that save the day at exemplar schools. In too many of these studies, researchers will describe a high poverty school as having over 60 percent poverty or some other level that pales in comparison to many of our Arkansas districts.

Studies have shown that if you put a low-income student in a school with a low rate of poverty, they will perform better than their peers in high poverty districts. Concentrated poverty makes it difficult to overcome the trajectory of current outcomes. Bringing change to schools with high rates of poverty is like turning the Titanic. Incremental change is the greatest inequity that our most challenged districts face.

 Numerous academic solutions have been applied over the years and millions spent in failing Arkansas schools. Limited successes from state takeovers and highly paid education experts have been short-lived. Despite the establishment of exemplary practices in the schools, poor academic performance persists. The thing all these districts have in common is highly concentrated, unrelenting poverty. Schools are ill-equipped to support large rates of students dealing with homelessness or a host of other poverty-related challenges regardless of which latest and greatest pedagogies are in place.

 Yes, leadership training, experienced high-quality teachers, better curriculum coordination, and instructional pedagogy can bring gains. But school improvement strategies alone, put in place without addressing poverty, won’t succeed. In addition to well-meaning and much-needed education practice improvements, we must address the underlying cause of poor achievement in high-poverty areas of the state. Arkansas needs a comprehensive, integrated set of student supports to turn the tide. These supports will empower the effectiveness of the instructional improvements being established.

 Community school design addresses student needs and engages families and community. Community schools serve as a hub connecting people for school activities and community events, providing a forum to connect families and students to needed services. A community school provides a traditional curriculum alongside a broad range of student and family supports through community partnerships. Examples of these services include health care, food, and nutrition supports, early childhood services, out-of-school opportunities, and programming for parents and families that may range from job training programs to computer literacy or cooking classes. In addition to supports for students, community schools work alongside families and the community to identify and meet local needs. This level of collaborative effort is exactly what the Arkansas Department of Education’s new framework for family and community engagement is designed to accomplish.

Arkansas’s neighboring states are actively moving to implement community school design or expand it. Nearby states with community schools include Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Arkansas has some school districts that are operating in a manner very close to community school design. Southside (Van Buren County) has a large arsenal of student supports adopted when they along with a cohort of other Arkansas schools participated in the Schools of the 21st Century Initiative of Yale University. Springdale is hiring school-based social workers to support students and families. But community school design hasn’t taken root in districts with the highest rates of poverty.

Research on the effectiveness of community schools was cited by the U.S. Department of Education in last year’s release of federal funding for the schools. Community schools are an effective practice to improve student outcomes, promote opportunity, and increase equity. The hard work of the state and districts to improve instructional practice needs fertile ground to be successful. Arkansas should implement community schools to meet the needs of low-income students and improve academic outcomes.

You can train teachers and hire more new leaders. But if you don’t support students, change won’t come. Arkansas needs community schools. Thank you, Arkansas Senators, particularly sponsors Senators Elliott and Hendren, for recognizing the value of community schools.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

ACCS at Southern Education Foundation’s 2018 Conference

Two Arkansas Community Schools Coalition members joined together to present a paper at the Southern Education Foundation 2018 Forum held in Little Rock in mid-November. Jerri Derlikowski. ForwARd Arkansas, and Candace Williams, Rural Community Alliance, presented on supports for small, rural schools focused on those that have high percentages of students eligible for free and reduced lunch.  While many small, rural schools perform well, these schools facing high concentrations of poverty have limited resources to address the needs of students. 

Students in schools with high concentrations of poverty often have fewer options and less hope for fulfilling careers and futures. This was verified in a national study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). We are working with an Arkansas research organization to verify the results specific to Arkansas.  It can also be seen in access or lack of access to regional career centers.

The report proposed two solutions to student needs for community supports and relevant career training. With regional supports and programming, small, low-income districts can thrive.  These supports include support for community school design including a community school coordinator that works on one or more small school campuses but coordinates resources across the region and connects them to local needs. 

Examples of regional models include Connect 4 in Carroll County that connects three districts and the county’s business community.  In November, Saline County passed a sales tax to support a career center that will serve all six districts in that county.  The tax had the support of the business community.  Finally, in a model similar to these, Kent ISD in Michigan has operated a regional career center serving 20 or more nearby districts for one-half day training of local juniors and seniors. The students report to their “home” district for the other half day. They play sports, participate in student activities, and graduate from their “home” district.  The regional effort does not disrupt local schools. It serves and supports them by making access to attractive programming available while keeping students connected to their local district.

The state continues to do too little to turn the tide for a cohort of small schools with high concentrations of poverty that chronically underperform other districts. The current pace of change is so slow that it insures children in schools of concentrated poverty continue to stay in place behind other students. Failing to take bold action to jump start progress, to rethink education in these districts is to damn them by contentment with incremental, inadequate progress.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

ACCS November 2018 Newsletter

ACCS November 2018 Newsletter

In October 2018 we launched our new logo, website, and Facebook page. Looking to November, we’ll share what’s happening in Arkansas with Southern and national audiences. Check out our newsletter to learn more.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

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