Prince George’s County Public Schools is in the midst of the largest single year roll out of community schools anywhere in the country outside of New York City. On the heels of a historic victory in the state legislature last session with the passing of the Maryland Blueprint for Education which provided funding for the initial rollout of these new community schools. Prince Georges County Educators Association has been working on community school implementation for several years and is excited to be leading on these efforts.
What is a Community School?
Prince George’s County community schools
A community school is a community hub — both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. Community schools offer a personalized curriculum that emphasizes real-world learning and community problem-solving. Schools become centers of the community and are open to everyone — all day, every day, evenings and weekends.
Six pillars of community schools
1. Expanded and Culturally Relevant Curriculum
Curriculum is culturally relevant with students having the ability to see themselves through a diverse group of authors, characters, and story themes. The needs of parents and families are addressed through English-as-a-Second Language classes, GED preparation, and job training programs.
2. Effective Teaching Practices
Educators provide a rich and varied academic program by making learning relevant to the students. Time is spent on mastering learning rather than on preparing for test or assessments. Rather than working in isolation, teachers work collaboratively to plan lessons, analyze student work, and adjust curriculum as necessary.
3. Inclusive Leadership
Collaborative leadership is established by creating a shared vision and goals and creating participatory practices for distributing responsibilities across a myriad of people. Leadership team includes principal, community school coordinator, parents, staff, and community partners who ensure that the community school strategy remains central in the decision making process. A sense of ownership has been established among all stakeholders where everyone sees their role in ensuring the success of the school.
4. Multi-tiered Supports
Positive relations and interactions between staff and students and parents are the norm and staff models such behaviors. A multi-tiered restorative approach to supporting students includes, but is not limited to, restorative practices, PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports), peer mediation, and RTI (Response to Intervention).
5. Family and Community Partnerships
Partnerships are essential in fostering trust and respect between the school and the parents and the community. Families and community partners are part of the leadership for the school and are engaged in the governance and advocacy for the community school.
6. Community Support Services
Wrap around services are focused on the whole child with services provided to support a child both academically and socially/emotionally. Supports are provided to ensure that a child’s physical health and mental health are taken care of and provided during and outside of the school day. Services provided are based upon a needs assessment with community partners helping to provide needed services.