Research-Based Expectations for Implementation of the Community Schools Initiative in New York City
Research offers strong cautions against claims of miraculous school change. Instead, changing a school’s culture and practices in sustainable ways that improve student learning takes years of commitment by all stakeholders in the school.
Attempts to dramatically turn around schools to show quick improvements in student outcomes are often counterproductive, resulting instead in school conditions associated with persistently low performance.
Many quick school turnarounds, like those initiated via the federal School Improvement Grant program, were associated with unintended, negative outcomes such as high teacher turnover, large numbers of inexperienced teachers, administrative instability, poor school and classroom climate, and socioeconomic segregation.
In contrast, reform efforts grounded in the idea of sustained improvement over time are more likely to improve student achievement along with other critical aspects of the school.
The evidence is clear: in the first three to four years, schools generally achieve only partial implementation of complex change efforts, with full implementation taking upwards of five to 10 years.
Part of the challenge in turning around schools is that outside-of-school factors likely account for twice as much of the variance in student outcomes as do inside-of-school factors.
Accordingly, the community schools approach—one of the most prominent and research-based approaches to sustained reform—addresses the academic, social-emotional, and health needs of children as well as the capacity to systemically meet these needs in communities of concentrated poverty.