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Community Schools Workshops focus on improvement in the classroom and beyond

As debate rages in the state over proposed legislation offering tax credits for families at "failing" public schools to send their children to private schools, Auburn University's Truman Pierce Institute and Office of Continuing and Professional Education au icon are bringing together educators, community and business leaders and others to identify ways to simultaneously bring about school and community improvement.

The Truman Pierce Institute, a research and outreach unit of Auburn's College of Education, will offer two "Exploring Community Schools" workshops in March. The one-day sessions -- March 19 at Jefferson State Community College's Shelby-Hoover campus and March 20 at Auburn University Montgomery's Taylor Center -- will foster dialogue among preK-12 and university educators, community and business leaders, mental health professionals and representatives of non-profits and community-based programs.

Cindy Reed, director of the Truman Pierce Institute and the Gerald and Emily Leischuck endowed professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education's Department of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Technology, said the Community Schools concept entails an integration of academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement to improve student classroom achievement, strengthen familial connections and drive community economic development.

"How do you help students and focus on improving the community around the school?," Reed said. "When you have strong educational systems, the quality of life improves for your whole community."

More than 30 agencies are co-sponsoring the Exploring Community Schools workshops. Educators, community and business leaders, legislators, and members of the general public are invited. The registration fee is $25 and includes a boxed lunch. Registration may be completed by visiting the Office of Professional and Continuing Education home page au icon. Continuing Education Unit credit is available.

The workshops will explore how the Community Schools model has succeeded in Ohio. After implementing the Community Schools model, Cincinnati Public Schools saw fourth-grade reading scores increase by 15 percent and math scores increase by 18 points (2004-2011). During that same period, the graduation rate of the district's public high school students increased from 72 to 82 percent.

Reed described Community Schools as "very holistic." While effective teachers are critical to student achievement, they aren't the only factor in successful public schools. Research shows that in a given academic year, a child spends only 12 percent of his or her total hours in a classroom setting.

"Schools can no longer be islands," Reed said. "The Community School approach is one way for us all to work together to improve public education and simultaneously strengthen our communities."

Last Updated: Mar 08, 2013

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