04/03/2013 03:19 pm ET Updated Jun 03, 2013

Communities Hold the Answer to Student Success

Given that school finance systems are often not designed to provide equitable opportunities for student learning and support, the Community School approach is an effective and efficient way to make the most of existing resources to meet a child's needs. Most importantly, this approach allows school districts and communities to get started now, without having to wait for a big infusion of funding to leverage resources and get on the path to better results. A Community School model is the alignment of school and community resources to ensure student success.

Within the current school financing model, funds typically aren't flexible or adequate enough to account for the varying needs of students -- such as poverty and language barriers -- in our diverse communities across the country. Through a Community School approach, however, agencies work together to identify and understand the individualized needs of children and their families, coordinating and leveraging the necessary resources to support student achievement. As a result, a Community School offers more effective programs and services than any one of its partners could offer on its own. Partners in Community Schools see greater benefits with increased accessibility, scope, quality and receptivity of services delivered. Additionally, Community Schools achieve better outcomes as well as fiscal efficiencies through economies of scale and eliminating duplicative efforts.

It is important to emphasize that a Community School effort can be started and sustained without a significant infusion of new funding. In fact, in California alone, many Community Schools were launched in response to severe budget situations. The real key to this approach is the alignment of existing resources and expertise across the school district, local government and its community partners. In other words, coordinating and leveraging to make sure every child has access to the necessary academic, developmental, health and social supports.

We firmly believe that we must fund our public schools more generously -- particularly here in California -- and the focus on existing resources is not meant to ignore the overall state of school funding. However, a Community School approach simply makes sense regardless of a district's fiscal circumstances -- why wouldn't we want to take advantage of 100 percent of our communities' resources in order to support students' future success? The strategic coordination and leveraging in a Community School approach allows us to do just that.

To explore how to make Community School partnerships work, download this brief on the foundation to community school efforts and check out the local community profiles.