Yes, this Florida school actually raised test scores by installing street lights

With another Covid-19 variant running loose, the Build Back Better Act stalled in Congress, and winter’s coldest days ahead, you’re probably dying for some good news.

Here you go: The most exciting progressive movement I’ve come across in the past few years has actually gotten bigger and stronger during the pandemic.

Parents, students, educators, and others from places as diverse as the Tampa, Florida, suburbs and Los Angeles, California, are turning their neighborhood public schools into what are called “community schools.”

Community schools bring together local nonprofits, businesses, and public services to offer a range of support and opportunities to students, families, and nearby residents. The goal is to support the entirety of a student’s well-being to ensure they are healthy, safe, and in a better position to learn. These benefits then extend to the surrounding community.

Here are just some of the many great community school stories:

  • After learning from parents that many students felt unsafe walking to school in the dark, Florida’s Gibsonton Elementary organized an effort to have the local government install new streetlights near campus, immediately increasing attendance—which, among other things, helped improve test scores.
  • Hot Springs High School in rural Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, was able to re-engage nearly 80 students who had stopped showing up to online or hybrid learning during last school year.
  • Reagan High School in Austin, Texas, doubled enrollment, increased graduation rates, and avoided closure by launching mobile health clinics and parenting classes, changing its approach to discipline, and expanding after-school activities.
  • Journalist Jeff Bryant recently reported that Erie, Pennsylvania’s school district not only increased attendance but also is using the community school approach as—in the words of one of their community partners—an “economic development initiative” to help the struggling Rust Belt city.

What I love about the community school approach is that it looks at public education as what it truly is: a public good. Meaning, it benefits the common good if all of us have access to it.

As our executive director Donald describes it in his new book, The Privatization of Everything, “It does not greatly benefit me if my neighbor has a huge TV. But it benefits me tremendously if she has an education, if his children are fed, and if they are vaccinated.”

If you want updates on good things community schools are doing, subscribe to our new monthly email newsletter, Community Schools.

Photo by SoulRider.222.