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Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence

By Anna Maier Julia Daniel Jeannie Oakes Livia Lam
Community Schools: Building Home–School Partnerships to Support Student Success

Education policymakers working to address the impacts of growing economic and racial inequality on students often look to community schools as an effective approach for supporting students and their families in communities facing concentrated poverty. Through partnering with community agencies and offering important resources, community schools integrate academics and collaborative leadership with health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement. This study finds that, when implemented well, these schools can help students overcome such challenges as lack of access to high-quality learning and out-of-school barriers to learning.

This report, Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence, was produced in collaboration with the National Education Policy Center. It synthesizes the findings from 143 rigorous research studies on the impact of community schools on student and school outcomes. Its aim is to support and inform school, community, district, and state leaders as they consider, propose, or implement community schools as a strategy for providing equitable, high-quality education to all young people.

The report finds that, while community schools vary in the programs they offer and the ways they operate, four features—or pillars—appear in most community schools:

  • Integrated student supports,
  • Expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities,
  • Family and community engagement, and
  • Collaborative leadership and practices.

The report examines each pillar and provides examples of programs and schools where these pillars are well-implemented. The report also finds that the use of community schools to improve student outcomes is strongly supported by research evidence, as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. 

This report is published jointly by the Learning Policy Institute and the National Education Policy Center.

Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence by Anna Maier, Julia Daniel, Jeannie Oakes, and Livia Lam is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.