The Coalition for Community Schools has awarded CEJ with the Community School Family and Community Advocate Award for our efforts to mobilize and expand community schools. CEJ is recognized as being, “instrumental in the creation of a sustainable community school strategy in New York City. By bringing the critical voice of families and community residents into conversation, CEJ has helped community schools efforts to have a greater impact on the lives of young people and their families and communities. They continue to strengthen the capacity for authentic family and community engagement in community schools and keep the focus on better learning and outcomes for children. CEJ drove the passage of the community schools policy at the New York City Department of Education, a landmark policy for New York City and other large cities.” We are honored to accept this award at the Community Schools National Forum, taking place April 6-8 in Albuquerque, NM.Tweet
On January 20, 2016 parents and students from the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) and community schools, as well as members of the Coalition for Community School Excellence celebrated the approval of the Community Schools Policy by the Panel for Educational Policy. The vote took place at the Taft Educational Center in The Bronx shortly after many community school supporters had rallied outside in support of this important guideline.
COMMUNITY SCHOOLS GET A BOOST FROM THE CITY-Mott Haven Herald’s Victoria Edwards
“Parents of children in underperforming schools were jubilant when a city educational panel passed a law in January to strengthen a year-old mayoral initiative they say has been beneficial for students.
On Jan. 20, the Panel for Educational Policy, a 13-member body of education experts and officials appointed by the mayor and borough presidents, convened at the Taft Educational Center in Morrisania to vote to define standards for for what a New York community school should look like. The policy was established in January 2015 to help struggling schools by assigning social service and educational nonprofits to work with them to boost student performance.
Some 50 parents and students from the grassroots Coalition for Community School Excellence braved sub-freezing temperatures to rally in front of the Taft Center, urging the panel to approve a policy that would create a sustainable model that can be built on.
In the end, their wish was granted, as the panel voted unanimously for the standards established by the nonprofit NYC Coalition for Educational Justice in 2014.
When the mayor implemented the program last year, his administration agreed to a three-year term for the 130 schools it included, but as the initiative approached the halfway point, parents and administrators were eager to create a set of written parameters defining what the schools’s goals are in order to make them sustainable.
Parents and students voiced their enthusiasm for the program as they waited for word of the panel’s vote.
“I want the school to continue to improve,” said Fatima Morel, whose child is a student at a community school, the Bronx High School of Business.
“Parents are now part of the school community and I want to make sure that continues,” Morel said through a Spanish interpreter, and added that, “one big change is language access at the school where I can speak in my language to find out how my child is doing.”
Elias Crespo, a junior at the Bronx High School of Business, echoed Morel’s support of the initiative. He said he had struggled academically under the traditional school model, but a mentor from a partnering nonprofit helped boost his confidence.
“Before, my grades were not good,” said Crespo. “Now I’m on the honor roll.”
Another Bronx High School of Business junior, Michael Yeboah, said he had come to support the nonprofits that work with the community schools, because his mentor helped him raise his grades.
“If they put in the effort for us – we’ll put it in for them,” Yehoah said.
Advocates from education groups that helped shape the community schools policy in 2014 joined the rally.
“Now that Becky has new glasses, she also needs to know how to read,” said Natasha Capers, coordinator for the Coalition for Educational Justice. New York City’s version of the national initiative provides not only a social services component to help students in struggling schools cope with difficult issues at home, she said, it is also one of the first in the country to provide students academic assistance, through mentoring and tutoring.
Earlier in January, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he would allocate $100 million to extend the program to more schools across the state, in addition to the 130 already in the program. One education advocate said that money would pay for some schools to partner with community colleges rather than nonprofits, proving that the initiative is designed to be adaptable to its surroundings.
“It’s one model, but may differ depending on the needs based on the community,” said Marlene Peralta, a senior associate at Progressive Cities.
One of the panel members, Laura Zingmond, lauded the educational advocacy groups for helping shape the policy, and “not just asking for policy and not having details,” but presenting a robust plan the panel could work with. “We’re thrilled that it got to this point.”
The Coalition for Educational Justice says it will continue to keep an eye on state and city government to ensure officials keep their promise and comply with the requirements of the initiative, and to continue pushing them to renew it.”
On October 27, 2015, a collaboration of community based organizations and educational advocacy groups announced the launch of the Coalition for Community School Excellence. The goal of the coalition is to ensure long-term success and sustainability for the community schools initiative by advocating for the needs of community schools and their leaders, families, and partner organizations. To celebrate the launch, partner organizations and the press toured P.S. 188, a school that exemplifies how community schools create positive change for high-needs students, families, and community members on the Lower East Side.
DE BLASIO ALLIES FORM COMMUNITY SCHOOLS GROUP TO PUSH CITY HALL—POLITICO New York’s Eliza Shapiro:
“Education advocates, school leaders and organizations have formed a new group called the Coalition for Community School Excellence, which will advise the city Department of Education on its new community schools. The DOE is in the process of opening at least 130 community schools, largely in low-income neighborhoods with social services for children and families, as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for improving struggling schools. The Coalition is composed of diverse constituencies: it includes special education advocates such as Advocates for Children, the teachers’ union-backed group Alliance for Quality Education, local charter school Harlem RBI, and the Children’s Aid Society, among dozens of other groups.
A similar collection of advocates has been calling on the administration to formalize and strengthen its policies around community schools for nearly a year. Although the groups’ leaders are mainly de Blasio allies, some have privately expressed concerns about the city’s community schools plan. Up until just a few weeks ago, for example, the administration did not have an official policy around community schools, and informal policies did not include academic achievement as a primary goal of the program. Earlier this month, the city released a policy that includes academic improvement as a central tenet of the initiative. Advocates have also pushed the administration to define what ‘community schools’ — a national phenomenon praised particularly by teachers’ unions — mean in a New York City context. The DOE has since created a separate community schools office within the department.
The Coalition outlined another concern in its first press release on Tuesday: that of the tight deadline for community schools to show dramatic academic improvement. ‘The timeline for success is punishing,’ the press release reads. ‘Despite ample research showing that schools need at least 3-5 years to show improvement, many of these new community schools must show gains within one or two years or face being closed or reorganized.”
On September 22nd, 100 parents and community members rallied at City Hall in support of community schools as a long-term investment in struggling schools, testified about successes in their community schools, and called on the administration to pass a Community Schools Policy to guide implementation and ensure longevity. Deputy Mayor Richard Buery attended and announced that the Department of Education has presented the Panel for Educational Policy with a draft policy to be revised and voted on in the coming months. The event brought greater public awareness to the community schools initiative and showcased broad support from parents across the city for high-quality implementation and expansion. Speakers included parents from community schools, City Council Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm, and other elected officials.
TRACKING EDUCATION: “A coalition of advocates — some of them aligned with New York City’s teachers’ union — are pushing for the passage of a concrete policy on community schools. The Coalition for Educational Justice held a rally on the steps of City Hall Tuesday afternoon to call on the Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy to approve a set of policies that would govern the city’s 130 new community schools. The policy seems to have buy-in from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration: deputy mayor Richard Buery spoke at the press conference. The policy, first crafted last year, seeks to formally define what a community school is and how such schools should be staffed and should operate. The PEP will vote on the policy at an upcoming meeting, likely in November.” — POLITICO New York’s Eliza Shapiro
Parents, Community Organizations and Elected Officials Propose Citywide Community Schools Policy
About 100 parents, community partners and elected officials gathered on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at City Hall to announce a proposed policy to guide the expansion of community schools.
“CEJ is very excited for this new chapter in the community school movement. We have been advocating for community schools for years and now that we see them coming into fruition, parents and community school partners have worked together to draft a policy that establishes the vision and standards to guide them. We know that to be successful, community schools must be a combination of comprehensive services with rigorous academic curriculum and transformative parent and community engagement. This policy proposal can give the city a firm foundation for the expansion of community schools and will help ensure that for years to come there is clarity to how community schools should be done,” said Felicia Alexander, parent leader with the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice and organizer with Brooklyn Movement Center.Tweet