As schools collaborate with families and their communities, they can become valuable resource hubs that lead to greater student learning and well-being, healthier families, and stronger communities. The community schools approach integrates learning supports, social services, and other supports to meet students’ and families’ needs. When these schools are high quality and well implemented, they enhance students’ academic, social, and emotional development and increase school attendance and motivation to learn.*
The AFT has long prioritized development and support of community schools and is expanding its initiatives to add many more community schools nationwide. As part of this effort, Share My Lesson offers several resources in its Building Successful Community Schools collection to help educators learn how to develop the collaborative relationships needed to establish and sustain community schools.
Launching a High-Quality Community School
Educators and school staff cannot create the learning conditions that students need alone. In community schools, educators and school staff partner with families, community members, and service providers to address barriers to learning and well-being—from Wi-Fi access to healthcare to help finding housing.
Educators can learn how to launch and fund a high-quality community school in the five webinars included in “Free Community Schools Webinars with the U.S. Department of Education.” One of these webinars is the Learning Policy Institute’s “Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Whole Child Approach to Education.” This resource reviews how community schools can best serve students as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and how all schools can adopt the same practices
Partnering with Families
Family engagement is a critical component of successful, sustainable community schools. When families are partners in education and the family-school relationship is characterized by trust and quality communication, families can better support students’ learning at home.
The Share My Lesson collection includes a webinar series led by educators, parent advocates, and community school practitioners to address aspects of the family-school partnership. “Community Schools: Family Engagement, Social Justice and Equity” explores how the sustainable community schools initiative helps achieve racial, social, and educational justice. “Community Schools: Building Relationships in Classrooms Through Social Justice and Anti-Racist Curriculum” continues this discussion with an overview of the ways that community schools create safe spaces where students, caregivers, and communities all have a voice in students’ learning.
Also included is practical guidance for engaging caregivers in students’ learning. “Field Guide: Enhancing Parent Engagement for Student Success” highlights the importance of working with caregivers both in the classroom and at home to support students. Educators can build on this knowledge with “Essential Tech for Better Family-School Communication,” a resource by Share My Lesson partner National PTA, which considers how school communication strategies can better use technology to facilitate information sharing with families.
Finally, in “Cultivating Stories About Family Migrations,” Share My Lesson partner Re-Imagining Migration focuses on increasing family engagement by appreciating the richness of students’ family histories. Part one of this resource is geared toward middle and high school students; through a family interview project, students better understand and communicate with their families, and educators gain meaningful insights into students’ home lives. Part two, “Moving Stories at the Heart of Family Life,” is intended for students in preschool through primary grades. Caregivers and students read Junot Díaz’s Islandborn and then caregivers share their own stories with students and document and reflect on the experience.
Keep monitoring this collection for new resources added through spring 2023 with more tools that can help educators build a successful and sustainable community school. And to learn more about the AFT’s advocacy for community schools, including additional case studies and teachers’ perspectives, visit aft.org/position/community-schools/resources.
Please reach out to us with any additional ideas or requests at [email protected].
Building Successful Community Schools Collection
This collection aims to provide free preK-12 lesson plans, webinars and resources for educators, parents and community members to build successful schools.
American Educator, the American Federation of Teachers' flagship magazine for K-12 educators, now includes some of the news and resources formerly included inTeacher. Please visit the links to current and past issues ofAmerican Educatorhere.