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National University and School Districts Awarded $14.9 Million to Expand Research-based Community School Model

National University, which houses one of the largest colleges of education in the United States and is the largest provider of teaching credentials in California, announced it received $14.9 million from the U.S. Department of Education to bring a nationally-recognized school model to high-need elementary, middle, and high schools in San Diego County.

Through the five-year grant, the university as the grantee will provide community services to National School District and San Marcos Unified School District to implement full-service community programs, which integrate extended academic, social, health, and workforce development services through the university and community-based organizations.

Interest in the community school model has accelerated in recent years, in part to help combat the impact of COVID-19 learning loss on K-12 student achievement. In 2023, federal investment in community school programs climbed to its highest level on record, and states have ramped up support with billions in funding. Research shows a strong evidence base for the model: a RAND study found improved attendance and student achievement at New York City community schools, while a study of community schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico found a $7 Return on Investment for every $1 invested in community school support.

Through a five-year project entitled Project ENLACES (Engaging a Network of Locally Accessible Community Establishments and Schools), the project will build Full-Service Community School programs at five high-need schools serving predominantly low-income neighborhoods and English language learners. The project was one of just 30 competitive grants awarded across the country, and one of three within the state of California.

In collaboration with National University’s JFK School of Psychology and Social Sciences, the School of Health Professions, Harmony Academy, and Workforce Education Solutions (WES), along with community-based organizations, the project will focus on delivering high-quality wraparound support services to address the emotional, social, health, and academic needs of children, including those who are English Language Learners (ELLs), students with disabilities, and students from other diverse backgrounds, cultures and languages. For example, the program will offer free on-site after-school and summer programs, using the areas near school as the center hub for the community, as well as high-quality early childhood education programs and services for parents.

To implement the program, the project team has assembled a diverse coalition of nonprofit and community-based organizations to help provide integrated health care, enrichment, high-quality early childhood education, family therapy and other services. The list of organizations includes:

  •     A Reason To Survive (ARTS)
  •     Boys and Girls Club of San Marcos
  •     Community Wraparound
  •     Comprehensive Youth Services
  •     FBI San Diego Citizens Academy Alumni Association
  •     Fresno County Juvenile Justice Commission
  •     National Head Start Association
  •     Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center
  •     Project Next
  •     YMCA of San Diego County

The U.S. Department of Education Grant is the latest in a series of pilot programs designed by NU’s Sanford College of Education in collaboration with school districts and local education agency partners, including an innovative teacher residency program established in Chula Vista. As the largest education school in California, the Sanford College of Education brings to bear a unique combination of faculty expertise, online instruction, school, district and community partnerships, research opportunities, and holistic student support to meet the diverse needs of the K-12 education workforce.

“To ensure every learner has the opportunity to achieve their full educational potential, we need to create the conditions for healthy learning, which in many cases means understanding the challenges that students and their families may be experiencing outside the classroom,” said Dr. Robert Lee, dean of the Sanford College of Education, an expert in partnerships between community-based organizations and schools who founded the National Center for Urban Education at Illinois State University early in his career. “The power of the community school model is that it creates a single stop for multiple wraparound services that make it possible to meet the complex needs of children, families and communities.”

“We have the opportunity to be a model for California and the nation on how community schools can genuinely change the trajectory of a child’s life and elevate the vitality of both the school and the community,” said Dr. Sharmila Kraft, assistant superintendent of educational services at National School District. “This is about tapping the power of place and community partnerships to help meet the needs of learners and change the trajectories of children.”

Source: PRWeb