To the Editor:
Ellen Condliffe Lagemann’s Commentary on how we as a society have failed our schools implies a strong call for action (“Public Rhetoric, Public Responsibility, and the Public Schools,” May 16, 2007). According to her interpretation, we have asked schools to perform “impossible things.” What is missing from her depressing account, however, is the recognition that comprehensive approaches to making public schools more successful already exist.
Around the country (and, in fact, the world), schools and community agencies are working together to create full-service community schools. The basic concept behind them is that schools cannot do it alone: They cannot address nor treat all the problems presented by today’s children and their families.
These new kinds of institutions offer a range of health, mental-health, social, and recreational services on site, provided by community agencies that partner with the school. The school building, which is open for extended hours, becomes a hub for the community, a place where children and their families can find academic and cultural enrichment and support. A full-time coordinator works to integrate what goes on in the school with what is brought in from outside.
We know that community schools produce better outcomes both academically and socially. We have begun to “muster the social imagination,” to quote Ms. Lagemann, necessary to address the inequities that cripple our education system. Just last month, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called community schools “an innovative ‘big picture’ approach to educating America’s children” when introducing the Full-Service Community Schools Act of 2007.
The writer is a founding member of the steering committee for the Coalition for Community Schools at the Institute for Educational Leadership, in Washington.
A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 2007 edition of Education Week as Community Schools Are Bridging Social Divides