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Supporting Research

Dryfoos, J. G. (N.D.) Evaluation of Community Schools: Findings to date. Washington, DC: Coalition for Community Schools.

Joy Dryfoos has collected the largest summary to date of evaluations of community schools. She found that 36 of 49 programs reported academic gains and that reading and math improvement were the most common results. Two schools with outstanding results were:

  • Charles Drew Elementary School, a school in the University of Pennsylvania's West Philadelphia Improvement Corp., improved in reading and math more than any other school in the state in 1999.
  • PS5, a Children's Aid Society Community School in New York City, showed significant two-year gains from 28 percent in 4th grade to 42 percent in 6th grade. Highly correlated with achievement, attendance also improved in 19 of the 49 programs.

The review notes important nonacademic outcomes like reduction in high-risk behaviors and increased access to services in the community. Eleven of 49 programs report reductions in substance abuse, teen pregnancy, disruptive behavior in class, or overall improvement in behavior. For example, the California Healthy Start initiative found that students reduced their drug use across 138 sites. Students attending the Blenheim School, a Missouri Caring Communities site, saw a 40 percent decrease in disruptive behavior after receiving clinical therapy. Twelve evaluations demonstrated increases in parent involvement.

Blank, M. J., Melaville, A., & Shah, B. P. (2003). Making the difference: Research and practice in community schools. Washington, DC: Coalition for Community Schools.

The Coalition for Community Schools (CCS) has also completed a summary of 20 community school evaluations. They condense their findings into four broad-based claims:

  • Student learning: Community school students show significant and widely evident gains in academic achievement and in essential areas of nonacademic development.
  • Family engagement: Families of community school students show increased stability, communication with teachers and school involvement. Parents demonstrate a greater sense of responsibility for their children's learning success.
  • School effectiveness: Community schools enjoy stronger parent-teacher relationships, increased teacher satisfaction, a more positive school environment and greater community support.
  • Community vitality: Community schools promote better use of school buildings, and their neighborhoods enjoy increased security, heightened community pride, and better rapport among students and residents.

The Coalition for Community Schools has also compiled measures of academic achievement across 20 evaluations. These measures generally fall into two categories: (1) subjective student grades and (2) standardized tests. The Coalition for Community Schools reports that students attending 15 of the 20 schools show some measure of improvement in academic achievement. Nine of 20 schools reported reduced substance abuse, disruptive behavior, or disciplinary action. Three schools increased parental involvement in their children's education.