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students and adults cross the street with a cut out of a bus that says "walking bus"

Meeting the needs of students with Community Schools

Community Schools are public schools that provide services and support that fit each neighborhood’s needs, created and run by the people who know our children best—all working together.

Community Schools transform traditional public schools into neighborhood hubs that mobilize students, staff, families and community members to reimagine education and co-construct a shared vision for their school and community.

Community Schools are developed with the understanding that every community is different. Recognizing that education is a shared responsibility, Community Schools ensure families, students, and community members have a say in deciding what will work best for student success.

Because learning never happens in isolation, community schools focus on what students in the community truly need to succeed—whether it’s services and supports like free healthy meals, health care, and tutoring, or systemic changes like shifts in school culture, policies, and approaches to teaching and learning.

Community schools take on challenges by:

  1. Developing a deep understanding of the hopes and vision of students, staff, families and community members
  2. Pulling together collaborative teams to identify the root causes of challenges and pinpoint solutions to implement together

How do we come together as a community to help our students overcome the barriers in their lives and achieve their dreams? The Community Schools model shows us a better way forward.

Kerry Motoviloff
“Having community schools is the perfect way to ensure that the system answers to the community, not the other way around.”

No matter our race, background, or ZIP code, we all want our neighborhood public schools to inspire imagination, cultivate curiosity and critical thinking, and ensure our children can live fulfilling lives.  

The community school model empowers students, staff, families and community to articulate a roadmap for schools and communities to co-create a plan that addresses the unique priorities and vision of the local community. This collaborative approach has led to transformational outcomes across the country. For example:

  • A Florida School learned that a lack of streetlights was keeping kids from coming to school. Interest-holders rallied to increase streetlights from 12 to 52. Attendance improved and the school saw achievement gains of 12 percentage points in ELA and a 16-point gain in mathematics.
  • A San Francisco school’s stay-over program turned their school gym into a temporary shelter to support students and their families who were experiencing housing insecurity.
  • An Iowa school implemented parent run clubs and programs and has seen improved involvement, attendance, and collaboration. And when its community experienced a devastating storm, the school was poised to respond and immediately mobilized its network of community school partners to engage in crisis response.
  • An Anaheim school infused classroom instruction with real-world community issues. Teachers listened to student and family concerns on a variety of topics – everything from immigration policy to the youth mental health crisis -- and turned those issues into project-based learning units for students.
  • A New Jersey K-8 school reduced teacher turnover by providing a support system to students and their families, including a food pantry and full medical clinic.

Community schools are a choir of voices coming together in harmony to improve learning and build healthier communities. A better future of public education is possible, and it’s already happening in neighborhoods around the country.

edcuators review a contract over a table

Five Steps to Kickstarting Community Schools in your District

Discover how to bring community schools to your district to improve learning and build healthier communities in harmony in five steps!


Community-Centered Transformation

Here are a few stories of how community schools are responding to the needs of their students.

Remove Barriers to Learning

The problems students experience in and outside of school are intertwined. The community schools model aims to tackle these challenges together.
south division high school

Mental Health Support

Community schools help meet the mental health needs of students, especially after the trauma of the pandemic.
remote teaching covid

Aligning Partners to Provide Solutions

The community schools model enlists local partners to provide enrichment and other student services, taking pressure off educators.
A woman loads groceries into cardboard boxes

Prepare for Crises like COVID-19

For Sarah Madden and her children, Potter Elementary Community School has been a lifeline, not only during the COVID-19 crisis, but well before.
Marietta High School Good Vibes Cafe

A “Home Away from Home”

At Marietta High School, a network of teachers, counselors, and community partners have cultivated a culture of hope and achievement.
students and a community school

What are Community Schools?

Because learning never happens in isolation, community schools focus on what students in the community truly need to succeed.

Spearheading the Community Schools Movement


Number of Schools: Hundreds

Federal funding: $0

Number of States: 39

NEA launches the Community Schools Institute with a $10 million investment to help communities start and grow community schools.

Number of Schools: Thousands

Thanks to NEA member advocacy, the federal government now provides $70 million in federal funding to support community school initiatives.

More Funding

Congress and President Biden double federal funding for community schools.
“When you stop, ask questions, and genuinely listen to the answers stakeholders offer, you realize that small, simple changes can create large improvements.
Quote by: Catherine Gilmore, community schools coordinator at Gibsonton Elementary School, Fla

Community Schools Story Map

As part of its commitment to advancing community schools strategies, the Partnership for the Future of Learning has worked with partners to create an interactive map of stories about community schools and the impact they’re having across the U.S. The stories published on the map show how community schools strategies work in different places and at different stages of development.

How to use the map:

  1. Hover over an icon to see a window more information about any story on the map. (The map works besr on desktop and hover is not available on mobile devices.)

  2. Click the “Open Story” button in the window to open up a new tab where you can read the full story. Most stories are originally located on media and partner websites!

  3. Zoom in using the + and - signs in the upper righthand corner of the map. Locations are approximate to city and state, and some stories mention more than one location.

  4. Filter stories using the dropdown options on the left side of the map.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.