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Community Schools Would Benefit New Mexico

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Youth Development, Inc. is proud to be part of an emerging statewide vision for community schools, which improve the learning conditions for New Mexico youths.

As both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources, a community school has an integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and family engagement. This focus leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.

Community schools offer a personalized curriculum that emphasizes real-world learning and community problem-solving, become centers of the community and are open to everyone — all day, every day, evenings and weekends. They maximize existing and oftentimes untapped resources in a community to improve efficiencies in the process of schooling.

Building on this promising strategy, Sen. Cisco McSorley has introduced Senate Bill 179, the Community Schools Act, in the 2013 New Mexico legislative session to create a structure to allow community schools to be recognized as an effective strategy for improving learning conditions for our state’s youths.

Community schools are proven to work. Take findings from Tulsa, Okla., which leave no doubt that community schools can help students learn to read at grade level.

In Tulsa, researchers compared 18 community schools to 18 non-community schools. Students in community schools scored significantly higher — 32 points higher in math and 19 points higher in reading — and had higher ratings of instructional leadership and effective supervisory practices.

In New Mexico, YDI’s Elev8 community school model has implemented an early warning data system that tracks student attendance, grades in core subject areas and overall grade point average as a way to ensure that students with high-need receive supportive services before they fall through the cracks.

Once students are referred to services, Elev8 links student participation in Elev8 interventions to academic and social outcomes through its “On Track to Graduation Framework.” This integrated evaluation system serves the dual purpose of a targeted referral system and a way to measure the results of Elev8 services.

Most importantly, community schools engage parents and families in the educational lives of their children. Research has consistently shown that family engagement in education leads to better academic outcomes for children. In fact, New Mexico schools are now rated on their ability to effectively engage parents through the state’s A-F grading system.

A community school strategy can help schools achieve these ends.

We need community schools today, not tomorrow. Failure is too expensive to sustain.

We cannot afford a lost generation of youths, a tragic result when barriers to learning go unmet. Each high school dropout costs $200,000 in lost earning potential and risks entering the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

Passing the Community Schools Act in New Mexico will complement state education and health reform efforts and ready us for congressional action and potential new funding streams.

Community schools in Albuquerque, Anthony, Laguna Pueblo and Santa Fe are already changing student lives. Let’s act in 2013 to widen the circle of success and share the promise of community schools.

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