How to Improve School Attendance

A Practical Guide for Schools and School Districts
A Project of the Los Angeles County Education Coordinating Council


Module 4: School-Community Partnerships—1

Introduction

As mentioned in the History of the ECC starting on page 1, this manual is a follow-up to A Comprehensive Approach to Improving Student Attendance in Los Angeles County released by the Education Coordinating Council's School Attendance Task Force in February 2012.88 In its report, the Task Force highlighted holistic and comprehensive models to address the root causes of attendance challenges, and to build multi-stakeholder solutions to this issue in Los Angeles County. Since the report was largely focused on recommendations for entities such as school districts, law enforcement agencies, and the courts, the Task Force recognized that a greater understanding of the role that the community—including community-based organizations (CBOs), community members, and parents—could play in promoting positive attendance was key. As such, "creating strategies for increasing connections between schools districts and available community resources" was one of the key implementation steps in the report. This module is a first step toward that implementation goal.

School-community linkages and partnerships have been identified as essential to "improving schools, strengthening neighborhoods, and leading to a marked reduction in young people's problems."89 As noted by the Center for Mental Health in Schools at the University of California Los Angeles, schools are located in communities, yet are often isolated from community members and much-needed resources for their students. Families live in neighborhoods, but often remain disconnected from one another or the schools that their children attend. Community agencies like CBOs, youth centers, and local businesses often remain fragmented, despite their major stake in the education system.

Fostering lasting school-community partnerships is critical to bridge these divides and to connect these important players who are all invested in such shared goals as the success of young people in school. Additionally, as budget woes continue to affect school funding across the state and county, creating meaningful partnerships and tapping into unused community resources has never been more imperative to promoting student attendance and achievement. The range and list of possible school-community partnerships is extensive. While this module cites related resources on this topic throughout, its goal is not to provide an exhaustive inventory of all options to enhance school-community partnerships. Rather, it is an effort to identify and highlight a few important models with local examples that can serve as an initial resource for school districts looking to implement these models. Underlying any comprehensive focus on school attendance and the creation of meaningful community partnerships is the key element of leadership. Leadership is needed at all levels of a school district, from school-site teachers and administrators to superintendents and school board members. Much has been written about the importance of school-site administrators' leadership in supporting teachers, students, and families, and district-wide leadership in supporting school sites and promoting a vision for community partnership.90 However, since this module focuses on tools most applicable for school-site staff, all of the principles of school leadership and district-wide leadership are not explicitly delineated. Rather, it simply notes the breadth of research on leadership and the importance of it in implementing the identified strategies.


88 Education Coordinating Council
89 Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA. "School-Community Partnerships: A Guide."

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