U.S. Department of Education Emphasizes Importance of Full-Service Community Schools Through Competitive Grant Program

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U.S. Department of Education Emphasizes Importance of Full-Service Community Schools Through Competitive Grant Program

Department aims to scale the program to impact more children and families as communities respond to the pandemic.

January 11, 2022

Today, the U.S. Department of Education released the Notice of Proposed Priorities, definitions, and requirements for the Full-Service Community Schools competitive grant program and tomorrow is launching a 30-day public comment period for the program. These proposed priorities align with the vision set forth by the Biden-Harris Administration and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in support of high-quality educational opportunities for all students and the important role of full-service community schools in providing wraparound and academic supports to students and families that are critical in their academic success. Full-service community schools work collaboratively with students’ families and leverage community-based resources to provide a tailored set of coordinated services and programs to a school community. Community schools meet student social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs through after school and summer learning and enrichment opportunities, as well as mental and physical health services. During the pandemic, community schools, for example, re-engaged students, hosted vaccine clinics, provided meals, and secured technology to ensure students can access remote learning.

“Community schools play a vital role in achieving President Biden’s vision of building our education system back better than before the pandemic,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The last two years have taught us how critical schools can be in providing wraparound supports to students and families—such as access to mental health services, basic needs, and high-quality academic instruction. When schools are at the center of our neighborhoods and communities, children, youth, and families benefit. I am thrilled that this program can enable more students and families to access full-service community schools, and that President Biden proposed in his budget to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in community schools, which have been proven to improve student well-being and academic success.”

Since 2010, the Full-Service Community Schools competitive grant program has supported 55 distinct communities in all regions of the country. President Biden’s FY22 budget includes a proposed increase of $413 million for the Full-Service Community Schools program. This request would expand the capacity of the program to serve up to 2.5 million students, families, and community members in an estimated 800 new community schools.

The proposed priorities are intended to encourage quality implementation of the four pillars of community schools: integrated student supports that address out-of-school barriers to learning through partnerships with social and health service agencies and providers; expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities; active family and community engagement; and collaborative leadership and practices. The proposed priorities released today address:

  • Supporting states and districts in scaling up high-quality community schools within and across school districts;
  • Encouraging evidence-based strategies for integrated student supports; and
  • Supporting a national evaluation to continue to build the evidence base behind effective community schools.

Full-service community schools can help ensure that students’ opportunities are not limited by zip code, family income, race/ethnicity, disability status, or other factors by strengthening a school’s conditions for excellent teaching and learning. The community school approach leverages existing community assets, and generates new resources, to bring needed supports for students and families into public schools. Educators at community schools engage parents and families as full partners in their child’s education. Community schools often offer courses, activities, and services for parents and engage families and community members in school decision making.

This year in particular, the community school strategy has enabled educators to address the challenges confronting students as they returned to in-person learning. These strategies are also critical ways to re-engage students with the appropriate integrated supports. Research shows that evidence-based approaches to community schools can improve student social, emotional, and academic outcomes.

For more information and to submit comments about these priorities, the definitions, and requirements, please follow this link to the Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-00453