New York City's Community School District 16 (CSD16), in the heart of Central Brooklyn, is the center of a bold new approach to grassroots, community-based reform. A new report from the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Brooklyn Movement Center and the Black Male Donor Collaborative lays out a blueprint for collaboration between school leadership, community stakeholders and philanthropic parters to support local schools and ensure access to educational opportunities for all students. "Raising the Stakes: Investing in a Community School Model to Lift Student Achievement in CSD16" aims to produce a community school model that can be replicated in other districts across the city, the state and the country.
First, the stats: CSD16 is made up of 26 traditional public schools (15 elementary, 6 middle, 5 secondary) and 6 charter schools. The median income in the area is just $33,654 for a family of 4, and 80 percent of students in the district's public schools are eligible for free and reduced price lunch. 84 percent of the public school students are Black, 14 percent are Latino, and just 1 percent are White. Only 45% of girls and 34% of boys in grade three tested at or above grade level reading, compared to 56% and 55% respectively for the state overall. Only 5% of the 2011-2012 graduating class was considered college and career ready.
Now, the plan: "Raising the Stakes" lays out 4 broad recommendations that aim to provide schools and students with the type of wraparound supports and sense of collaboration that help them thrive:
1. Encourage collaboration not just between school administrators and community stakeholders, but also between schools. According to CSD16 principals interviewed for the report, school leaders often feel pitted against each other in the current education reform atmosphere and forced to compete for scare school resources. But no school and no student should ever have to compete for an education – setting up a system of winners and losers by definition denies all children a fair and substantive opportunity to learn.
2. Provide a comprehensive array of after school and out-of-school time (ASOST) programs and opportunities including: mentoring, tutoring, sports and recreation, arts and culture, mental health services, STEM enrichment, and other wrap-around support services. For a community with so many low-income students, providing these additional supports is invaluable and part of making an education system more equitable.
3. Create a searchable database of ASOST providers and qualitative assessments of their programs to improve the ASOST infrastructure in the community.
4. Support parent engagement and organizing by, for example, holding "know your rights" trainings to help parents become better advocates for the children.