As summer draws to a close, kids across America are preparing for the inevitable: the start of a new school year. Whether they greet this season with dread or excitement, the fact remains that their educational experience will shape the course of their lives. Having the means to access and absorb high quality K-12 educational resources lays the groundwork for postsecondary success and ultimately higher paying jobs.
The converse effectively closes these doors. While school and teacher quality are paramount for educational achievement, there is growing recognition that academic success depends heavily on meeting the needs of the “whole child.” These include proper nutrition, stable housing, adequate health services, a safe neighborhood, and positive adult role models. Such issues often present challenges in low- and moderate-income communities and addressing them is part of the daily work of community development. As such, while the community development field may not have a direct role to play in the classroom, there are reasons why the field should be considerably more attuned to the relationship between its work in low- and moderate- income areas and the educational outcomes for children growing up there.
This issue of Community Investments focuses on the intersection between education and community development in an attempt to identify shared goals and seed a conversation between the two sectors. The articles in this issue examine broad trends in educational equity and new models for better integrating community development and schools. Jeff Edmondson of the Strive Network and Nancy Zimpher of the State University of New York discuss the importance of setting standards for collective impact and getting a better social return on investment in education. Diana Hall describes how a thriving network of community schools in Multnomah County, Oregon is strategically aligning youth, family, and community services with schools to improve educational outcomes. Sean Reardon of Stanford University provides evidence of the widening achievement gap between the rich and the poor, which has important implications for inequality in America.
Our Eye on Community Development section includes a summary of new findings from a detailed analysis of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) on issues of capitalization, liquidity and portfolio, and risk management from 2005 to 2010. In addition, the California Community Reinvestment Corporation, a CDFI with a 23 year history of offering affordable multifamily mortgages in California, reflects on the lessons learned in adapting to the changing realities of the industry.
We hope this issue of CI encourages you to think critically (and optimistically!) about the opportunities for the community development field to partner with schools and improve educational outcomes for youth. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject and always welcome your feedback.
Enjoy what’s left of the summer!