In today's New York Times, Cincinnati's adoption of a "community schools" approach is heralded not as much for its academic gains as it is for its ability to improve students' lives. Notable is the schools' giving expanded access to health care and social services -- areas, The Times notes, that often can lead to poor academic results if not properly addressed. The Cincinnati district, for example, provides facility space for health-care organizations to operate in its schools. The organizations, not the district, pays for the services.
The Times wrote, "In Cincinnati, teachers and principals enthusiastically endorsed the model, calling it an effective way to mitigate the effects of poverty in the classroom.
“'I can’t teach science to a kid whose father went to jail the night before,' said Carolyn Powers, a teacher at Taylor Academy. 'Sometimes you have to let some of the academics go and focus on social and emotional needs.'
"At Oyler School, which serves mostly poor families with roots in Appalachia, hundreds of students have benefited from an on-site vision clinic. The school also offers evening classes for adults and has an army of more than 400 volunteer tutors.
"'What’s the alternative?' asked the former principal, Craig Hockenberry, who has just taken a job as a schools superintendent in a rural Ohio district. 'We should just sit back and watch these families deteriorate?'"
The point isn't necessarily to advocate for a Cincinnati model implemented here in Anniston. Instead, it's a call to consider all options -- especially those that aren't mainstream. Improvement is that important.-- Phillip Tutor