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.

Good Things in a Small, Rural School District

Good Things in a Small, Rural School District

Is the community school model viable in small, rural school districts? Community Resource Innovations (CRI) and the Rural Community Alliance (RCA) believe the answer is a resounding yes!  Recently, Jerri Derlikowski and Maria Jones, both of CRI, and Candace Williams, from RCA, traveled to the Southside Bee Branch School District to visit school leaders. The group discussed the amazing array of programs and services provided to local students and families in the small community. The visit was prompted by positive feedback from the National Community Schools Coalition and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

South Side Bee Branch School District is a small, rural school district in Van Buren County, Arkansas. The district has approximately 500 students and is located on Highway 65 between Greenbrier and Clinton. An example of the district’s rural nature could be seen when it posted alternative snow routes for buses. One of the bus routes, which were described by the driver’s name instead of a route number, stated, “Mr. Jim Hopper’s bus will meet at the Café on top of Bee Branch Mountain at 7:20 and old Caldwell Feed Store at 7:30.” This prompted an inquiry from a parent about students who might not be able to get “down” to these locations.

The district was once part of the Schools of the 21st Century initiative of Yale University. (This not the same as the federal funding program for out-of-school services, called 21st Century Community Learning Centers.) According to the website for the Yale program, “Arkansas and the School of the 21st Century (21C) [initiative] have a long history. The first 21C site in the state, Paragould’s School of the 21st Century, was established in 1992. Other schools in Arkansas expressed an interest in the program, and in 1997 the Yale Center for Child Development and Social Policy started working on a statewide presence in Arkansas with the Arkansas Department of Education. Additionally, the Ross Foundation made a substantial investment in the Arkadelphia school district to enable district-wide implementation and outreach to the wider community.”

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation initiated a five-year partnership with Yale University to support the development of a statewide 21C network, beginning in the fall of 2001. The Foundation built on Schools of the 21st Century to address early care and the ongoing education needs of children in Arkansas. Five years later, when the funding ended, many of the schools continued to operate the original programs or newly developed programs modeled on the same principals. About 20 Arkansas schools, including the South Side Bee Branch district, participated.

The 21C initiative, as part of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale, has been a proponent of the community school model. The Zigler Center is represented on the steering committee of the national Coalition for Community Schools.

Deb Swink was at the South Side school district during the 21C grant period. Ms. Swink is now the special education director at the Clinton School District. She is also a member of Yale University’s The School of the 21st Century Leadership Council and serves as a national trainer for the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum. She has recently been appointed as a Senior Associate and National Trainer for the Yale School of the 21st Century. Mutt-i-grees is a learning curriculum using interactions with shelter animals to build social and emotional skills in students.

Ms. Swink says that South Side Bee Branch did not implement the full community school model with a community coordinator. But, staff within the South Side schools adopted that function by building resources at the school and connections to programs off-site. It was an informal way to accomplish the same purposes. The best thing about the 21C work was periodic phone calls with schools from around the country to share new ideas, according to Ms. Swink.

In our meeting, the staff members shared a lengthy list of programs and family resources in the district that they organize, manage and access.

Examples of South Side campus programs and resources include:

  • Boston Mountain Rural Health Center
  • Outpatient mental health services through Methodist Family Services School-based Counseling Program
  • Students transported for services to a dental clinic in nearby Clinton
  • Pre-K
  • Infant-toddler care for teachers/staff – the community also has an Early Head Start program
  • Food pantry for students on weekends and breaks
  • Hygiene product pantry in the boys’ and girls’ restrooms
  • Student mentoring programs where selected high school students help younger students with homework and social problems
  • Community Service Learning class
  • EAST lab

The school works with the community to meet needs through businesses, churches and community organizations. The district has revamped some of its old WPA-era buildings and built new ones through income brought to the community as a result of the shale-oil boom. This has created space to house pre-K and health services. Although the shale-oil boom era is closing, the district has used the opportunity to invest in their school facilities. A large part of the district’s success in meeting student needs has been through collaborative efforts to create new solutions, seek grant funding and integrate the surrounding community into school programs and services.

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.

Rural Community Alliance’s 15-Year Movement

Rural Community Alliance’s 15-Year Movement

Celebrating 15 years of rural advocacy, Rural Community Alliance reflects on its accomplishments and looks toward the future.

Rural Community Alliance is a nonprofit organization with 2,200 members in 66 chapters across Arkansas. The following video highlights some of its work over the past 15 years since it began engaging rural residents to become advocates for rural Arkansas schools and improving Arkansas communities.

About Rural Community Alliance

Rural Community Alliance is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping rural schools and communities survive and thrive.

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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