Sustainable Community Schools
The Sustainable Community Schools (SCS) movement was born out of Black and Brown community struggle. In 2001, parents, grandparents, and community activists in Chicago’s Little Village engaged in a 19-day hunger strike to protest the denial of a new high school for the children of their working class, Latinx community. They organized and worked with a community group to demand that the Chicago Board of Education fulfill its promise. Their persistence led to the building of Little Village Social Justice High School.
Fourteen years later and less than 10 miles away, dedicated parents, grandparents, and organizers staged a 34-day hunger strike to stop the closure and privatization of Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. Led by their community organization and with help from Little Village allies, the organizers developed a plan to save Dyett and other schools in their community. Their fight led to the reopening of the school. The next year, Dyett became one of the 20 SCS secured by the Chicago Teachers Union in our collective bargaining agreement with Chicago Public Schools.
|School Unit Name||Lead Partner Agency|
|Beidler Elementary School||Blocks Together|
|Brighton Park Elementary School||Brighton Park Neighborhood Council|
|Cameron Elementary School||Blocks Together|
|DePriest Elementary School||Family Focus|
|Drake Elementary School||Kenwood Oakland Community Organization|
|Dyett High School for the Arts||Kenwood Oakland Community Organization|
|Farragut High School||Enlace Chicago|
|Fenger High School||Youth Guidance|
|Fort Dearborn Elementary School||Family Focus|
|Kelly High School||Brighton Park Neighborhood Council|
|McCormick Elementary School||Enlace Chicago|
|Metcalfe Elementary School||Metropolitan Family Services|
|Morrill Elementary School||Metropolitan Family Services|
|Richards High School||Youth Guidance|
|Schurz High School||Youth Guidance|
|Spencer Elementary School||Youth Guidance|
|Steinmetz High School||Northwest Side Housing Center|
|Stevenson Elementary School||Metropolitan Family Services|
|Uplift Community High School||Youth Guidance|
|Yates Elementary School||Puerto Rican Cultural Center|
Every School Should Be a SCS
Chicago SCS a National Example
The American Federation of Teachers cites Chicago’s Sustainable Community Schools as a case study and example for what schools can do when they can make the most of the approach and resources that Sustainable Community Schools bring.
Sustainable Community Schools
In recent months, a series of crises has upended our world. From COVID-19 and its resulting economic fallout to uprisings against racial injustice and police violence, these crises have highlighted the educational disparities between students of differing races and illuminated the essential role that schools play in our communities.
Black, Latinx, Indigenous, rural, and low-income populations have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s impact because of the failure to address the inequities in their communities pre-COVID. That is where Sustainable Community Schools (SCS) come in. Through SCS, we have an opportunity to humanize education in a way that is antiracist and advances equity and justice.
What are SCS?
You’ve heard, “It takes a village to raise a child.” SCS are the embodiment of that saying – they are community hubs designed to provide wraparound academic, health, and social support for the entire community beyond the traditional 9 am – 3 pm school day. By leveraging community assets, resources, and external partnerships to provide comprehensive community care, SCS brings students, parents, educators, school staff, community members, and service providers together in a coordinated effort to promote neighborhood health and well-being. It is a community-led, community-driven approach to educational justice and equity.
SCS are not an unproven program. They are a paradigm shift in how we think about education.
Sustainable Community Schools’ Guiding Principles/
- Racial justice and equity;
- Transparency and trusting relationships;
- Self-determination and governance;
- Building from community strengths, community wisdom, and data/best practice/evidence;
- Shared leadership and collaboration;
- Student success and community transformation;
- Reflective learning culture; and
- Whole-child approach to education.
Six Pillars of Sustainable Community Schools
- Curricula that are engaging, culturally relevant, and challenging;
- An emphasis on high quality teaching, not high-stakes testing;
- Wraparound supports and opportunities;
- Positive discipline practices, such as restorative justice and social emotional learning supports;
- Authentic parent and community engagement; and
- Inclusive school leadership.
What does the research say about SCS?
Sustainable Community Schools have been shown to promote sustained, transformational change, including:
- Improved health outcomes for students, resulting in fewer missed school days
- Decreased rates of chronic absenteeism and student mobility
- Increased student performance and academic achievement
- Improved school culture and climate, including decreases in school discipline referrals, suspensions, and expulsions and a stronger sense of connectedness between students and educators
- Greater parent/caregiver/community participation and engagement with educators
- Community Schools in Illinois: An Effective Strategy to Address Equity, Health and Academics in Our Schools (ACT Now, 2020)
- Illustrating the Promise of Community Schools: An Assessment of the lmpact of the New York City Community Schools Initiative (RAND, 2019)
- Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement (Learning Policy Institute, 2017)
- Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools (Center for Popular Democracy, 2016)
More about Sustainable Community Schools
Read how the Sustainable community schools program empowers parents, students and teachers to imagine a new, holistic vision for their Northwest Side school.
Monique Redeaux-Smith, PhD connects the dots between the hunger strike she joined for Dyett HS and our 2019 strike.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers is promoting the Sustainable Community Schools model throughout the state. Read more about how the model can look in other school districts.
Karen Zaccor of UPLIFT High School describes what makes training in the Sustainable Community Schools program so different and so effective.
Read about the journey from imagining the schools our students deserve to winning the Sustainable Community Schools model and funding through our contract fight.
Revisit the rollout of Sustainable Community Schools through the initial announcement about the program as it first came to fruition.