Decades of research have shown that what happens in the home and community impacts students at school, and what occurs at school impacts students’ home and community experiences. Thus, it stands to reason that students who attend chronically low-performing high schools will benefit from comprehensive, responsive systems that cut across multiple policy and social service domains, including education and health and human services.
The U.S. Department of Education is addressing the broader context of schooling in their recent policy proposals and grant making efforts. One out of the six major priority areas in the administration’s blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is “Supporting Families and Communities.”
Two recent ED grant competitions specifically target this broader contextual focus. The Promise Neighborhoods grant program, modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, is one example of this commitment. Up to 20 one-year planning grants will be awarded to local school districts and schools in communities (including rural and tribal communities), with non-profit organizations or institutions of higher education, to develop a continuum of cradle-through-college-to-career solutions that significantly improve results for children. The deadline for submitting proposals for a planning grant was June 25. Recipients of the grants that develop compelling plans stand to receive a great deal of funding for implementation of their Promise Neighborhoods.
The High School Graduation Initiative grant program supports the implementation of effective and coordinated dropout prevention and reentry programs. Due July 28, grant applicants must provide evidence that they will collaborate with other agencies—e.g., foster care, juvenile justice, civic organizations—to be considered eligible for funding. Up to 50 grants of $350,000 to $3,000,000 will be awarded to State Education Agencies and Local Education Agencies.
As approaches to addressing the broader context of school emerge over time, it is important to capture how states and districts address student, family, and community engagement at the high school level. Family and community engagement look very different in high schools than it does in elementary schools. We will track the winning applications for both competitions to follow how high schools are a part of the work.
Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.
 Zaff, J.F. & Smerdon, B. (2009). Putting children front and center: Building coordinated social policy for America's children. Applied Developmental Science, 13(3), 105-118.