Today the New Jersey Assembly released a bill, NJ A1168, which would create a five-year pilot program of “community schools.” These schools provide not only the typical instruction but also an array of services that, according to Politico, that include “dental checkups, vision care, mentoring and typical extracurricular activities, such as field trips, book clubs and robotics.” The bill has bipartisan support.
According to the bill language, the New Jersey Department of Education would issue a Request for Proposals to non-profits that would do the work on the ground to set up these services. Then the selected non-profits and the State Education Commissioner would select 21 traditional school districts, renaissance schools, and public charter schools to participate in the pilot. An independent entity selected by the Commissioner would evaluate the effectiveness of the program on student well-being, health, and academic achievement towards the end of the pilot period.
From Politico (behind a paywall):
“Julie Borst, an education advocate who has been leading the charge to establish the school model in New Jersey, said there are several examples of community schools operating in pockets around the state in cities such as Paterson and Trenton. All were started with federal grant money.
‘None of them are supported by our state agency or by the Legislature,’ Borst said of the few community schools in New Jersey. They’ve done all of this work on their own.'”
The impact of community schools is mixed. In 2018 a non-profit called Child Trends collated 19 studies of community schools to find out whether they improved students’ mental, physical, and academic health. According to Chalkbeat, the results showed “a mix of positive and inconclusive findings” and the approach was judged “promising but not yet proven.” On the upside, no student did worse with the services than without them.