Don’t be surprised if you hear a lot more from teachers and board members about “out of school” social issues and programs this year. Chatter about more daring and wider-ranging approaches to school improvement is all the rage right now, as part of a longer-term pushback against accountability-based reform like NCLB.
Jumping into efforts to reach children in their home lives, however, may stretch schools’ abilities to make a real difference–and may take you and your team’s eyes off quality classroom instruction and academic improvement.
Over the past few months, there has been a slew of ideas and proposals to move beyond reform efforts that are primarily school-based. Just as the Democratic primary was wrapping up, a coalition of educators put out a call for a “broader, bolder” approach to education reform. Later in the summer, aft president-elect Randi Weingarten called for “community schools” that would provide social services as well as education. Early in the fall, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama began touting a proposal to create “Promise Neighborhoods” around the country, in which low-income children and their parents would receive a comprehensive set of medical and social services in addition to a quality education. About a third of states have recently embarked on new antipoverty programs, according to Stateline.org .