I read with interest the first in the Catalyst series about Arne Duncan’s achievements in Chicago, the challenges that remain, and how all of this will play into his work as the Secretary of Education. Today’s installment focused on school reform, but left out one of Mr. Duncan’s major contributions to transforming schools (and communities) in Chicago.
Mr. Duncan has worked with stakeholders throughout the system in Chicago, ranging from the Mayor and business leaders to teachers and administrators to parents and students. He has demonstrated a strong commitment to building the right teams and undertaking the right initiatives to support the learning needs of children in the system he oversees, and to fighting alongside other groups (ranging from the police department and lawmakers to community organizers) to insure the safety and well-being of children in Chicago and beyond.
Mr. Duncan also understands what it takes to create a system in which children are prepared for success in school and in life, in which the needs of parents, families and community members are met, and in which schools become the hubs of community activity, and the foundation of empowered, engaged, and strong communities. He was among the first educational leaders in the country to embrace and commit to the community school model, a model in which schools, families, and community members work together to identify and meet needs, link existing resources to the people who need them, and maximize the school buildings as spaces for learning, creativity, and support beyond the school day and year. As someone also with a background in business, Mr. Duncan understands how community schools maximize existing investments in communities by creating a structure through which resources are organized and accessed, and by forging and maintaining partnerships that link people and resources together.
Mr. Duncan supports community schools because they work. In Chicago, community schools raised test scores and grades more than their non-community school counterparts. Serious behavioral incidents are down at Chicago’s community schools, and some communities have even seen a decrease in crime in the areas immediately surrounding community schools.
By bringing his experience with the community school model and its benefits to the Department of Education, our hope is that the community school model expands across the country, so that every child, every family, every community member has access to the resources each needs to meet and overcome challenges, and to work together to create strong futures for all.
The Federation for Community Schools