“The Community Schools component is one of the keys to improving education that our union has been advocating for for years,” said Melodie Peters, president of AFT Connecticut. “This important legislation greatly enhances the education reform bill passed last year.”
AFT Connecticut pushed strongly for this Community Schools component last year. Our union continued to meet with legislators prior to the legislative session about the issue.
Community school buildings remain open beyond regular school hours to provide access to tutoring, homework assistance and enrichment activities, as well as medical, dental and mental health services. Families and other community residents also may benefit from legal advice, immigration assistance, employment counseling, housing help and English-language or GED instruction, depending on needs. Support provided by community schools can greatly alleviate many family stresses that interfere with student learning. Among the benefits derived from successful community school programs have been higher student test scores, better student attendance, higher graduation rates and improved levels of meaningful parent involvement.
“Community Schools would give Connecticut students the best opportunity for success by closing the achievement gap and building communities,” said Peters.
While good teaching is crucial to student learning, there are factors in every child’s life that are beyond the teacher’s control and may deeply affect the child’s ability to perform well in school. In fact, decades of research have shown that out-of-school factors account for up to two-thirds of student achievement results. Sadly, there are more impediments to learning in the lives of poor children than there are in the lives of children from more advantaged circumstances. In order to fully close the achievement gap, we must address all factors that impede learning.
The most effective solution is to provide services right in the school building. Schools and districts should coordinate existing state and local services and offerings from nonprofit providers to provide services where students and families can readily access them.
“We want to thank the leadership of the legislature and the Education Committee for their support for this bill,” said Peters.