Archived Information

Tools for Schools - April 1998

Community for Learning Program

What Is It?

The Community for Learning Program (CFL) is a broad-based, school-family-community, coordinated approach to improving student learning. The major premise of this school-based intervention program is that the national standards of educational outcomes can and must be upheld for all students, including those who are "at the margins." A centerpiece of the Community for Learning Program is an integrated design framework for a collaborative process of finding ways to harness all of the resources, expertise, and energies in linking schools with other learning environments, including homes, churches, libraries, public- and private-sector workplaces, and postsecondary institutions to support the learning of each student.

Why Did It Get Started?

There is a growing demand for educational reforms to improve schools' capacity to more effectively and efficiently serve all students, including those from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, by providing inclusive and coordinated educational and related services. The quality of life available to these children and families is threatened by a perilous set of modern morbidities that often involve poverty, lack of employment opportunities, disorderly and stressful environments, poor health care, children born to children, and highly fragmented patterns of service. The Community for Learning Program seeks to unite the resources and expertise of the school, the family, and the community in fostering educational resilience and learning success of inner-city children and youth.

How Does It Work?

Implementation of the Community for Learning components is supported by a delivery system that provides organizational and professional development support at the school and classroom levels. The Community for Learning Program includes three major components:

Specifically, the Community for Learning Program design consists of the following key program components that address the learning needs of the students, the organizational and administrative support requirements for achieving a high degree of program implementation, and the staff development needs of the school staff and related service providers.

A site-specific implementation plan that takes into account the school's program improvement needs; the learning characteristics and needs of the students; staff expertise and staffing patterns; curricular standards and assessment; and other implementation-related concerns.
 
A schoolwide organizational structure that supports a teaming process by involving regular and specialist teachers in the planning and delivery of instruction in regular classroom settings.
 
A data-based staff development program that provides ongoing training and technical assistance tailored to meet the needs of the individual staff and program implementation requirements.
 
An instructional-learning management system that focuses on developing student self- responsibility for behavior and learning.
 
An integrated assessment-instruction process that provides an individualized learning plan for each student, utilizing multiple approaches like whole-class and small-group instruction, as well as one-on-one tutoring, based on an ongoing analysis of student needs, resources, and expediency.
 
A family and community involvement plan that aims to enhance communication between the school and families and to forge a shared responsibility partnership and community connections to achieve the schooling success of every student.
 
A school-linked comprehensive, coordinated health and human services delivery program that focuses on the wellness and learning success of each student.

What Are The Costs?

The costs for implementing the program vary from site to site, depending on needs and available resources. However, in most schools the only added cost required is pre-implementation training of school staff. The program delivery system is built on existing resources with redeployment rather than requiring additional funds. The ongoing professional development of the school staff builds on and redeploys existing resources. No purchase of specially designed curriculum is required.

How Is The Model Implemented In A School?

Implementation of the Community for Learning Program focuses on site-specific planning to effectively integrate what is known to work in developing a site-specific plan to support the implementation of the program. A two-step process is involved:

The first is a comprehensive needs assessment involving all stakeholder groups, including the school staff (e.g., regular and special education teachers and other "specialist" professionals such as school psychologists, speech pathologists, and others), the building and district leadership team, the parents, and the community.
 
The second step consists of planning and the actual process of implementation, which typically involves the school-based personnel who are responsible for program implementation at the school level, as well as involvement of families and community agencies whose resources and expertise are mobilized to support student learning.

The specific design of the program to be implemented at each Community for Learning school site is based on the information obtained from the comprehensive needs assessment. Design decisions to be made at the building level include how the resources identified during the needs assessment will be used, modified, and reallocated for effective implementation.

A school-specific delivery system for implementing the Community for Learning Program involves identifying targeted program participants (students and staff); deploying or redeploying school staff; student placement and scheduling; space, facilities, and materials utilization; program monitoring and evaluation; communicating and disseminating program implementation and monitoring; and specific documentation of program implementation and program outcomes.

What Is The Evidence That The Model Is Successful?

The Community for Learning Program implementation seeks to impact three major areas of student outcomes: (1) improved student achievement, particularly for those at the margins of achievement distribution; (2) patterns of active learning and teaching processes consistent with the research based on effective classroom practices; and (3) positive attitudes by students and school staff toward their school learning environment.

Findings to date show a general pattern of more positive perceptions about classrooms and schools in Community for Learning schools, as compared to students in comparison schools. Students in Community for Learning schools tend to perceive better and more constructive feedback from teachers about their work and behaviors, a higher level of aspiration for academic learning, better academic self-concept, and clearer rules for behaviors and class and school operations. The data also show a positive pattern of changes in math and reading scores, and that Community for Learning students outperformed comparison school students on both subjects. Other noteworthy findings include the observation that families and the community became increasingly active in a wide range of school activities and in the decision-making process.

Where Can I See It?

Contact the Laboratory for Student Success at Temple University Center for Research in Human Development and Education for a list of demonstration sites available for visitation.

Whom Do I Contact?

Dr. Margaret C. Wang, Professor and Director
Laboratory for Student Success at
Temple University Center for Research in
Human Development and Education
1301 Cecil B. Moore Avenue
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122-6091
Telephone: 215-204-3000 or 800-892-5550; Fax: 215-204-5130
E-mail: lss@vm.temple.edu; Website: http://www.temple.edu/lss

The Research Base

The development of the Community for Learning Program was influenced by over 2 decades of research and field-based implementation of innovative school programs. In particular, it draws from the research base on fostering educational resilience of children and youth beset by multiple, co-occurring risks; and from the field-based implementation of two widely implemented school restructuring programs that focus on school organization and instructional delivery in ways that are responsive to the development and learning needs of the individual child. In addition, the model draws upon research on and field-based experiences of the forging of functional connections among school, family, and community resources in coordinated ways to significantly improve the capacity for development and education of children and youth. At the core of the Community for Learning design is a coordinated approach to service delivery that calls for shared responsibility among collaborative teams of school-based professionals and related services and community agencies, and the forging of close connections with the family and the community.
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