COMMUNITY SCHOOLS • Taking an old idea several steps further
February 21, 2009
Getting children ready to learn isn't just about handing out paper and pencils. Improving student achievement can mean that schools in poor urban neighborhoods have to meet the health, social and educational needs of children and their families.
It's not an easy challenge. But it has to be met. A child with a toothache isn't going to learn anything. Parents who can't speak English will have trouble talking to a teacher or helping with homework.
Community schools are designed to meet such challenges, and Hartford needs more of them.
Parkville Community School, built in the 1970s, houses a branch of the Hartford Public Library and a senior center and has been a centerpiece for that neighborhood. Four years ago, Naylor School in the city's South End teamed up with Central Connecticut State University to launch a community school program.
Last year, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and city's corporate community targeted five Hartford schools for $3.1 million over the next three years. Under the plan, each school principal will enter into a formal, long-term agreement with a private community organization.
A coordinator will be hired to work with the principal and staff of each school, tailoring services to the needs of students, their families and the community — services such as medical and dental care, counseling, English classes, child care, and after-school and summer programs.
Similar programs were developed over the past 15 years in the New York schools. And with good results: Educators say that in most cases, community schools reported improved math and reading scores, better attendance, higher parental involvement, and better overall mental and physical health among students and families.
We'd like to see those results in Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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