Working toward a vision for community schools that work for all students

What can we learn from a decade in the life of two high schools in the same Oakland, CA neighborhood? In one, educators, parents, community, and administrators work together with a shared vision. In the other, students, families, and teachers confront challenges to creating the conditions for young people and adults thrive.

The Long View is a feature-length documentary that takes us inside classrooms and campaigns and introduces us to community members and school leaders. It provides an up-close look at how when communities come together, as they did in Oakland, it fosters engagement and investment in public schools and advances equity.

In the clip above, parents and the community come together to address the inequities in their district. By organizing and uniting behind a vision for their children, they are able to ensure that students and families have a voice in decision making.

Dr. Pedro Noguera, Director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of School Transformation, talks about how school improvement initiatives sometimes exclude students:

“School districts are most responsive to the most privileged parents. They’re organized, engaged, they’re coming to board meetings, they understand how to use the political process, and so the system is responsive to them and their kids.”

“The most important thing we have to learn is that the community can’t just leave decision-making up to the board and to the superintendent. The public’s role is critical, and in order for the public to be heard, the public has to be organized.”

Schools should reflect the shared vision of all of their students, parents, and educators, not just a select few.

Community schools do just that. They promote equity for all students through four pillars: community engagement, a whole-child approach to learning, opportunities for deeper learning, and collaborative leadership. The Partnership for the Future of Learning released a comprehensive guide for how school districts can create community schools that are built on these four pillars to help all students thrive. Community schools reflect the neighborhoods and people they serve–meaning that no two schools look alike, and the approach is locally developed and owned. But their common thread is a dedication to student success.

This movement is already beginning in Manchester with a community effort to create a plan for the city’s schools that is responsive to their unique needs. Manchester Proud is a community-based movement, led by the people of Manchester, to unite the city behind an aspirational vision for the city’s schools. Volunteers are reaching out to as many people as possible: in person through canvassing, various events throughout the city, and individual outreach, as well as digitally through their online community survey. The information they gather through this process will help drive a strategic planning process that creates a plan for their schools that addresses the needs of students, parents, educators, and the community.

We invite you to visit to watch clips from the documentary and consider how you might use the film and screening guide to support a conversation in your community.