The Vermont Community Schools Act (Act 67 of 2021)
Act 67 of 2021, referred to as the Community Schools Act, joined Vermont’s history of education reform legislation when it was signed into law on June 8, 2021. With the passage of the Community Schools Act, the Agency of Education developed a competitive grant opportunity for eligible applicants to develop and pilot Community School models around the state. Community Schools serve as resource hubs that provide a broad range of easily accessed, well-coordinated supports and services that help students and families with increasingly complex needs. This three-year federally-funded grant program supports Vermont schools and community partners to develop, expand, and sustain a community school model that demonstrates five pillars outlined in the legislation: integrated student supports, expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities, active family and community engagement, collaborative leadership and practices, and safe, inclusive, and equitable learning environments.
As articulated in the Community Schools Act:
- Community schools facilitate the coordination of comprehensive programs and services that are carefully selected to meet the unique needs of students and families and build on the assets they bring to their schools and communities. Community schools combine challenging and culturally inclusive learning opportunities with the academic and social supports every student needs to reach their potential. Sec. 2(a)(3)
- Community schools serve as resource hubs that provide a broad range of easily accessed, well-coordinated supports and services that help students and families with increasingly complex needs. These schools, at their core, are about investing in children, through quality teaching; challenging, engaging, and culturally responsive curricula; wrap around supports; safe, just, and equitable school climate; strong ties to family and community; and a clear focus on student achievement and well-being. Sec. 2(a)(7)
- Community schools are important centers for building community connection and resilience. When learning extends beyond the walls of the school through active engagement with community partners as with place-based learning, relationships expand and deepen, community strengths are highlighted, and opportunities for building vitality surface through shared learning. Sec. 2(a)(8)
- Recognizing that literacy proficiency is a foundational learning skill, community schools can advance the State goal of improving literacy for all students in the State. Achieving this goal will require a multiyear and multidimensional effort requiring continued focus by the General Assembly, the Administration, and school leaders, and community schools are an important component of that effort. Sec. 2(a)(10)
The Five Pillars of Vermont’s Community Schools
Integrated student supports: address out-of-school barriers to learning through partnerships with social and health service agencies and providers, coordinated by a community school coordinator, which may include access to services such as medical, dental, vision care, and mental health services or access to counselors to assist with housing, transportation, nutrition, immigration, or criminal justice issues, and include what young people bring with them to the classroom and the ways that schools and communities working together can enhance and embrace the knowledge and capacity that students and families can offer their schools. This could include educational strategies like universal design for learning, recognition and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, and practices that focus on building and supporting relationships such as restorative practices.
Expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities: which may include before-school, afterschool, weekend, summer programs, and during the school day, that provide additional academic instruction, individualized academic support, enrichment activities, learning opportunities that emphasize real-world learning and community problem-solving and that may include art, music, drama, creative writing, hands-on experience with engineering or science, tutoring and homework help, and recreational programs that enhance and are consistent with the school’s curriculum.
Active family and community engagement: [b]rings students’ families and the community into the school as partners in children’s education and makes the school a community hub, where all students and their families feel a sense of belonging and engagement. This shall include broad student and community participation, with a diversity of income, race, gender, newcomer status, language, and ability represented in the design, implementation, and evaluation of all activities, that is embraced by the leaders and decision-makers in schools and communities. This also provides adults with a facility to access educational opportunities they want, which shall include access to evidence-based literacy instruction and may include coordinating services with outside providers to offer English as a second language classes, green card or citizenship preparation, computer skills, art, financial literacy, career counseling, job skills training, services for substance misuse, and other programs that bring community members into the building for meetings or events.
Collaborative leadership and practices: which build a culture of professional learning, collective trust, and shared responsibility using strategies that shall, at a minimum, leverage the multitiered system of supports and include a community school coordinator and an integrated school and community leadership team that include youth and family representatives, and may include other leadership or governance teams; teacher learning communities; and other staff to manage the multiple, complex, joint work of school and community organizations.
Safe, inclusive, and equitable learning environments: that foster a culture and climate where all students, families, and community members feel healthy, safe, and supported in achieving their learning goals. This environment allows educators, students, and the community to see and respond to situations where educational inequity may occur.
Community School models in VT
The following Supervisory Unions/Supervisory Districts (SU/SDs) are recipients of the three-year Community Schools grant program award: Addison Northwest Supervisory District, Caledonia Central Supervisory Union, North Country Supervisory Union, Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union, and White River Valley Supervisory Union.
Project Updates – What’s New?
Resources (organized under the five pillars)
NYS Community Schools Resource Center
National Center for Community Schools Needs Assessment Toolkit
Community Schools Evaluation Toolkit
Network for Youth Success Quality Self-Assessment (QSA) Tool Guide
New York State Community Schools Toolkit
Recently released RAND report on community schools in NYC
Coalition for Community Schools: research, legislation, videos, webinars, and an array of resources about community schools.
National Center for Community Schools: an initiative of the Children’s Aid Society, supporting New York City community schools as well as national research about community schools
Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania: together with the Coalition for Community Schools, organizes the University-Assisted Community Schools Network.
Communities in Schools: linking community resources to public schools
Learning Policy Institute on Community Schools
Healthier Generation and Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools recently launched the Thriving Schools Integrated Assessment which may be a helpful resource to consider when planning for needs assessments/implementation plans.
Integrated student supports:
Using Integrated Student Supports To Keep Kids In School, A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of Communities in Schools: This study, which is based on a quasi-experimental research design, examines the Communities in Schools (CIS) Model of Integrated Student Supports effect on students’ outcomes in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools
Vermont Multi-Tiered System of Supports
Substance Abuse Prevention
Expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities:
Vermont Afterschool and Summer Programs
Vermont Flexible Pathways
Research Review of Flexible Pathways
National Afterschool Association (NAA) Resources: This website offers a wide range of tools and downloads designed to strengthen afterschool programming.
The following webinars are from Learning Policy Institute:
Accelerating Learning: High-Quality Tutoring: How can districts develop high-quality tutoring and provide individualized supports to accelerate learning? In this webinar panelists discussed effective tutoring practices and programs and how to leverage new federal recovery funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to create broad access.
Accelerating Learning: Strategies for Whole Child Summer Learning and Beyond: How can districts support schools in creating high-quality summer learning experiences focused on acceleration rather than remediation? In this webinar panelist address strategies for whole child summer learning and beyond to support districts as they work to reopen schools in the pandemic and post-pandemic era.
Accelerated Learning: Best Practices for Expanded Learning Time: How can districts design new schedules to expand learning time for students and accelerate learning? In this webinar, panelists discussed reimagining the traditional school day through such strategies as partnerships with community-based organizations and community school approaches. They also discussed how high-quality expanded learning initiatives support students’ development of critical skills, as well as their social and emotional well-being.
Active family and community engagement:
Taking It To the Next Level, Strengthening and Sustaining Family Engagement through Integrated, Systemic Practice: This document by Institute for Educational Leadership, offers promising practices and sustainable strategies in family and community engagement.
Great Schools Partnership, Equitable Community Engagement Toolkit
Parent, Family, and Community Engagement: This page provides parents/families, community members and school districts resources to advance parent/family engagement.
Collaborative leadership and practices:
Collaborative Leadership – UCLA Center for Community Schooling
Collaborative Leadership Practices – Learning Policy Institute’s Community Schools Playbook
Safe, inclusive, and equitable learning environments
Vermont Healthy and Safe Schools webpage
Safe and Inclusive Schools Tools and Strategies – Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
Tips on Creating and Inclusive School and Why it Matters – Xqsuperschool.org
Cultivating Diversity, Inclusion and Equity – Resilient Educator.com
NCLD: Forward Together - A School Leader's Guide to Creating Inclusive Schools (pdf)
Indicators of Educational Equity - resources including actions, attitudes, and strategies (or indicators) that school communities might take when fighting inequity presented by Great Schools Partnership
Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) - provides free resources to K-12 educators to supplement the curriculum, to inform their practices, and to create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected, valued and welcome participants.
Vermont Educational Equity webpage
Community/State Partners and Resources
Your Local Core Teams: The mission of Vermont Family Network is to empower and support all Vermont children, youth, and families, especially those with disabilities or special health needs.
Up for Learning and the Getting to Y program. The GTY program is a youth-adult partnership school-based program in which youth engage in a scaffolded process to analyze local school YRBSS (youth risk behavior surveillance data) to help shape school health change plans and action items.
Vermont Department of Health/Vermont Child Health Improvement Program Contact Information:
Addison Northwest Supervisory District:
Middlebury District Office
Caledonia Central Supervisory Union:
St. Johnsbury District Office
North Country Supervisory Union:
Newport District Office
Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union:
Morrisville District Office
White River Valley Supervisory Union:
WRJ District Office