Student needs don’t begin or end at the schoolhouse door.
More and more districts are recognizing that to educate urban students effectively, they must ensure these students receive a variety of physical, social, and emotional supports that have not been traditionally delivered through schools.
In some cases, districts have jumped in to fill this void, adding positions and other resources. These services are critical, but may not always need to be provided by district staff or funded with district resources.
Outside providers may be able to leverage existing programs, expertise, and facilities to provide higher quality at lower cost. Most communities have myriad resources—community colleges, local businesses and artists, youth service organizations—that would benefit from strong schools and that may be able to cost-effectively augment or expand support in these areas.
Despite success turning around many of its lowest-performing schools, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District (CMSD) found that some of its schools were still struggling. To improve these struggling schools, the district needed to reach beyond the schoolyards to the surrounding communities. CMSD instituted Project LIFT (Leadership and Investment for Transformation), a groundbreaking five-year initiative proposed by two graduates of West Charlotte High—one who is now the mayor of Charlotte and the other is the head of a philanthropic foundation. This effort raised $55 million from local community organizations, individual donors, and corporate foundations. These funds helpd the district coordinate the services of several providers—such as department of social services, the health department, the county, the United Way, and others. The funds are also helping the district build information systems to support the effort and hire additional site coordinators. CMSD has embraced community partnership as a key element of its strategy to turn around these struggling schools.
Learn more from our district story, "Impacting an Urban Education through Community Partnerships."