Strong Community Schools
District State: New York
District Website: buffaloschools.org
Challenge: Buffalo, New York, has multiple segregated neighborhoods with deep poverty, high transiency and scarce economic activity. As school enrollment decreased and student achievement declined, schools were closed.
Initiative: The Strong Community Schools initiative started with an extensive overhaul of the existing district framework, supported by $18 million in sustainable funding. Each quadrant of Buffalo was designated a community school zone, and nearly 68 community partners were engaged in supporting education. Schools were relaunched with core elements, including bolstered academics and technology, effective after-school and Saturday programs, comprehensive parent centers and adult education, and targeted social-emotional learning support services for students and families.
Impact: The district has relaunched 21 of 56 schools as community schools that serve more than 11,500 students. In 2017, no community school was ranked as “in good standing” by the New York State Education Department. Now, 12 of 21 are.
Advice: Strategic community-based partners are crucial for managing comprehensive family programs. A dedicated, sustainable funding stream is also important, so district leaders should work closely with state legislators.