Building Afterschool Capacity at the National Level: The Community Schools Model: Building Capacity for Out-of-School Time Programs

Building Afterschool Capacity at the National Level: The Community Schools Model: Building Capacity for Out-of-School Time Programs
Building Afterschool Capacity at the National Level: The Community Schools Model: Building Capacity for Out-of-School Time Programs


Afterschool/Out-of-School Time (OST) programs provide extended learning opportunities to help youth succeed academically and develop important social, personal, civic, and employability skills.  Using a comprehensive holistic approach, OST programs offer a safe environment to supplement an academic curriculum while also addressing individual needs outside of school.  Although the popularity of afterschool/OST programming has increased at the federal, state, and local levels in recent years, and the number of existing programs has exploded, many afterschool programs struggle to maintain high quality standards in their practices due to capacity issues.  Thus, improving and enhancing capacity should result in more high quality OST programs, with more qualified and knowledgeable staff, improved processes, sustainability, and dynamic curricula.

The May 14, 2008 forum was the last in a three-part series, sponsored by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, examining capacity-building efforts in OST programs by utilizing a community schools strategy.  Community schools rely on and employ services provided from a wide spectrum of community organizations and services. These services are sometimes provided during the school day, in the school, and sometimes provided in OST and in locations adjacent or near schools. Afterschool and OST providers are also frequently used as resources in community schools. This makes the connections between OST and community schools rich and intertwined, and sometimes even hard to distinguish. This forum examines how various approaches of involving the community in and with schools is supporting youth and families, adding to the richness of OST learning, and expanding services for youth.

Forum Highlights

Martin Blank, Director of the Coalition for Community Schools, Institute for Educational Leadership, opened the forum by stating, “The world is a global place. We are charged with educating the most diverse group of children ever, and there is a demand for schools to function in different ways [to meet their needs].”

Blank described three core beliefs that guide the work of the Coalition for Community Schools:

  1. It is important to pay attention to all dimensions of a child and look at their unique skills and talents.
  2. Families matter and we have to grow and strengthen families if all students are to succeed.
  3. Relationships and academic performance are positively interconnected and thus we need to build positive relationships between schools, families, and communities.

With these thoughts in mind, the Coalition’s mission is to mobilize the assets of schools, families, and communities to create a united movement for community schools. “Strong and purposeful partnerships are necessary for kids to succeed,” stated Blank. Blank emphasized that schools can work together with a variety of players, such as OST providers and other organizations concerned with the learning and development of students. Everyone has a role to play in a strategic manner. “Community schools are results focused. When partners come to a school, they need to be prepared to talk about the results they want to see,” stated Blank. Using deep and purposeful partnerships, community assets can be mobilized, barriers to learning can be addressed, and the curriculum can be meaningfully connected to real world issues and community problems.  OST programs can benefit from these partnerships. Blank also stressed the importance of applying best practices, applying a broader definition of student success, and the importance of having higher expectations to encourage every student to move forward.

The community schools strategy is based on joining key partners at the local level with support from the state and federal level.  Blank believes that at the federal level, more incentives for collaboration are needed and support needs to be provided to bring people together.  In addition, Blank stated the need for a broader accountability framework at all levels in order to implement creative networks and to involve the whole community, including OST programs, to address student and family needs.

Blank noted the growing number of communities with strong community school initiatives including Chicago, Multnomah County/Portland (OR), Evansville (IN), Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Tukwila, (WA), among others.

Daniel Cardinali, President, Communities in Schools, Inc. (CIS), discussed the CIS model for integrated student services.  Targeting students the most at-risk of dropping out from high school, a school-based CIS site coordinator works with the school to understand what the pressing needs are in the school.  A comprehensive school- and student-level needs assessment is conducted and community service partners, such as OST providers, are identified.  Cardinali explained that this results in a school improvement plan that targets the most needy students and implements broad prevention services (e.g. substance abuse prevention, sexual health).

Programs using the CIS model are focused and operate in a strategic way, offering a variety of OST services such as mentoring and tutoring, family events and activities, service learning, sports and recreation, leadership camp, and additional summer programming. Cardinali discussed the results of an independent five-year longitudinal evaluation of the CIS Network. Findings showed that CIS lowers dropout rates, increases graduation rates, and improves academic performance in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math.  Cardinali emphasized, “This evaluation is about the CIS model which is an example of integrated student services.  The integrated student services provision is fundamental.”

With disproportionate numbers of low-income and minority students failing and dropping out, Cardinali believes that the integrated student services strategy needs to be a component of school reform. Furthermore, efforts need to be comprehensive and student-centered.  Cardinali suggested that three proposed legislative initiatives would provide needed support for integrated student services:

  • The Keeping Parents and Communities Engaged Act (Keeping PACE) would provide grants to states to improve parent involvement in education and utilize community resources to support students’ needs.  For example, local educational agencies could use funds to hire parent and community outreach coordinators.
  • The Working to Encourage Community Action and Responsibility in Education Act (WE CARE Act) requires states and local educational agencies to work with nonprofit and community-based organizations in efforts to assess nonacademic factors affecting student academic performance.
  • The Full-Service Community Schools Act would award grants to assist public elementary or secondary schools to function as full-service community schools and to start collaboratives to support the development of full-service community school programs.

Jane Quinn, Assistant Executive Director for Community Schools, Children’s Aid Society (CAS), stressed, “Creating community schools is a strategy, not a program.”  The role of CAS in community schools is three-fold: Direct services, advocacy, and technical assistance. Since 1994, CAS has operated the National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools to provide technical assistance for the different entities of community schools. The Center provides a variety of services such as hosting visitors interested in community schools, providing consultation and training to schools, community organizations, and policymakers, and sharing best practices nationally and internationally.

Quinn explained that community schools are illustrated by the developmental triangle.  Community schools provide enrichment and remove barriers to learning and development in conjunction with the core instructional program. Quinn asserted, “This is based on solid research, not someone’s best guess.” 

Furthermore, Quinn cited that caring, competent, and consistent adults are key to helping youth succeed. Quinn also described key program components of successful community schools, including: afterschool and summer enrichment, parent involvement, adult education, medical, dental, mental health and social services, community and economic development, and early childhood education.

A three-year outcome evaluation conducted by Fordham University revealed that CAS community schools had improved academic performance, higher attendance rates, positive school climate, improved school safety, greater parent involvement, improved student-teacher relationships, and more engaged teachers. “Teachers reported that community schools freed them to focus on teaching, because students’ other needs were being met by other services,” stated Quinn.

Quinn also called for support of the Full-Service Community Schools Act and stressed the importance of the Federal Youth Coordination Act as well as Medicaid reimbursement for school-based health and mental health services as a means to provide access to high quality healthcare.

Joann Weeks, Associate Director, University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, stressed the importance of universities working with their communities. “Universities are rooted in our communities and we need to be engaged,” stated Weeks. The Netter Center for Community Partnerships strives to develop mutually beneficial, mutually respectful, democratic partnerships with University of Pennsylvania and the West Philadelphia community through three areas of engagement: University-Assisted Community Schools, community capacity building, and regional, national, and international programs.

Weeks stressed the importance of deep community engagement and the integration of teaching, research, and service.  Academically-based community service, rooted in research and teaching, works with the community and aims to improve the structure and quality of life in the community. University-Assisted Community Schools (UACS) serve as the core institution for community engagement and remain open to the community before and after school, weekends, and summers. Weeks stated, “Community schools are, at heart, community-problem solving institutions. They serve the educational and developmental needs of the community during the school day, after school, on evenings and on weekends.” Four components of UACS are:

  1. Comprehensive school day program
  2. Comprehensive after school program for grades K-12
  3. Comprehensive community-wide programs (academic, job training, cultural, and recreational activities)
  4. Comprehensive integration and on-site delivery and referral of community and government services (e.g. education, workforce development, housing, municipal and human services)

The Penn-Sayre High School partnership is one of seven UACS sites. Involvement by Penn Schools of Medicine and Nursing provide high quality health care to students and families while also providing opportunities for high school students to learn about the medical field by observing medical procedures. Penn students are also involved in the classroom, providing instruction as well as a career and college component, a peer health educators program to address sexual health concerns in the community, and a family fitness night to encourage healthier lifestyles.  Weeks concluded that universities have the sustainable resources to create long-term partnerships that will positively benefit the community and the university.  Weeks believes that universities can do this by mobilizing the talents of faculty, staff, and students, leveraging resources such as work-study and developing partnerships that are democratic in process as well as product.

Highlights from the Question and Answer Session

A question was asked regarding what strategies have helped to integrate programs in schools. Cardinali responded that the entire network of organizations involved in a program must be working well and that when you have a high fidelity model to implement, you ensure a total quality system. In addition, Cardinali stated that implementing programs slowly is much better than implementing quickly and having to retrofit after going to scale.

Another question was asked regarding what has been done in situations when school systems are reluctant to integrate the community schools strategy and multiple service providers, such as OST providers. Cardinali explained that from the beginning in the CIS model, schools, businesses, non-profit organizations, afterschool and OST providers and other community entities work together to create a leadership board. “It is impossible to take work to scale if there is conflict between community partners,” stated Cardinali. Thus, time is spent on building and rebuilding positive working relationships between community entities as a key strategy for sustainability. Cardinali believes, “If we survive the three-year mark for a community partnership, then we have more rooted partnerships and a chance of survival.”


Community Schools:  Promoting Student Success

Communities In Schools and The Model of Integrated Student Services: A Proven Solution to America’s Dropout Epidemic

Summary of the Children’s Aid Society Community Schools Results To Date

The Children’s Aid Society Community Schools

Research Base for the CAS Community Schools Model

Case Study: Sustaining Our Community Schools

CIS National Evaluation Policy Document 


Martin J. Blank is the Director of the Coalition for Community Schools, which is staffed by the Institute for Educational Leadership.  The Coalition is an alliance that brings together leaders and organizations in education, family support, youth development early childhood, community development, government and philanthropy behind a shared vision of how schools can function as hubs of their communities where school and community resources and capacity are mobilized to support student success, strengthen families and build healthier communities.

He is the co-author or Making the Difference: Research and Practice in Community Schools and Together We Can: A Guide for Crafting a Pro-family System of Education and Human Services. He was Project Director for the preparation of Learning Together, a comprehensive map of the revitalized community schools movement across the country.

Blank stays involved with local activities in the District of Columbia.  He is the Chair of D.C. VOICE an education reform collaborative and of the Management Team of the Early Childhood Collaborative.

He has a B.A. from Columbia University, 1965, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and served as a VISTA Volunteer in the Missouri Bootheel.

Daniel Cardinali is President of Communities In Schools, Inc., the nation’s largest dropout prevention organization, with operations in 27 states and the District of Columbia. Established in 1977, Communities In Schools serves nearly one million of America’s most disenfranchised students each year. Under Cardinali’s leadership, the organization has embraced an evidence-based model of integrated student support services, and has launched a major third-party national research initiative. Cardinali’s background as a community organizer has helped the organization continue its steady and measured growth, forging national partnerships that build the capacity of the Communities In Schools network.

Cardinali is a 2007 Annie E. Casey Children and Families Fellow. He also currently serves as a Trustee for America’s Promise, and on the board of directors of the National Human Services Assembly. In addition, in 2005 Cardinali was awarded a Sawhill Scholarship through the Bridgespan Group to attend the Harvard University School of Business Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program. Cardinali also serves on the advisory boards of the Harwood Institute’s Public Innovators Summit and SparkTheWave.

Before assuming his current position in 2004, Cardinali served as Executive Vice President, Field Operations at Communities In Schools.

Trained as a community organizer in Guadalajara, Mexico, Cardinali served on a team organizing a squatter community of 120,000 to secure land rights, running water and public education. He returned to Washington, D.C., to receive a one-year Research Fellowship at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. At Partners of the Americas, Cardinali coordinated its leadership training program, the International Fellowship in Community Development.

Cardinali holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University.

Jane Quinn currently serves as the Assistant Executive Director for Community Schools at The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) in New York City, where she leads and oversees local and national work to forge effective long-term partnerships between public schools and other community resources.  Quinn came to CAS from the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds, where she served as Program Director for seven years.  Prior to that, she directed a national study of community-based youth organizations for the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which resulted in the publication of a book entitled A Matter of Time: Risk and Opportunity in the Nonschool Hours.  Together with Joy Dryfoos, Quinn co-edited a book entitled Community Schools in Action: Lessons from a Decade of Practice, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2005.  In addition, she writes a regular column on youth development practice issues for Youth Today. Quinn is a social worker and youth worker with more than 35 years experience, including direct service with children and families, program development, fundraising, grantmaking, research and advocacy.

Joann Weeks is an Associate Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, focusing on its regional, national and international programs.  She directs the national adaptation of the Netter Center’s university-assisted community school program, as well as its training and technical assistance activities.  She also organizes the numerous site visits to Penn’s work in West Philadelphia.  She supervises the staff of the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND), a consortium of over 40 institutions of higher education in the Philadelphia region.  Weeks also serves as the staff director of the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy (IC).  The IC’s organization center is at Penn and it works in affiliation with the Council of Europe.  She has organized major national conferences on this work for the Netter Center.

Weeks works closely with the Coalition for Community Schools and is a member of the Urban Affinity Network and has been on the planning committee for all of its National Forums. She is the assistant editor of Universities and Community Schools and a lead project developer and proposal writer for the Netter Center.

Prior to coming to Penn, Weeks directed community development work for twelve years in the Washington Square West Urban Renewal Area of Philadelphia for the neighborhood-based Project Area Committee.  She has a Masters in American History from the University of Pennsylvania.

Daniel Cardinali Powerpoint- The CIS Model of Integrated Student Services and Out-of-School Time»

Jane Quinn Powerpoint- Community Schools: A Strategy, Not  a Program»

Joann Weeks Powerpoint- University-Assisted Community Schools»

Martin Blank
Coalition for Community Schools
Institute for Educational Leadership

4455 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 310
Washington, DC  20008

Daniel Cardinali
Communities In Schools
277 South Washington, Suite 210
Alexandria, VA 22314

Jane Quinn
Assistant Executive Director
Children’s Aid Society
105 East 22nd Street, Suite 908
New York, New York 10010


Joann Weeks
Associate Director
University of Pennsylvania Center for Community Partnerships
133 South 36th Street, Suite 519
Philadelphia, PA  19104-3325


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