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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Building better schools

Posted on Wed, Dec. 05, 2007

Guest columnist
Schools are doing a good job. But we still have work to do. To be honest
about it, we have work to do in schools across the nation. This work will
require the involvement of practically every group in the community that has
as its mission the improvement of the quality of life for its citizens.

The schools are looked upon as one of society's greatest hopes to ensure its
prosperity and that of its people, sustained by a strong economy. Schools
have a critical role to play - but so do other community groups alongside
the schools.

Yale University develops, researches, networks and supervises a
revolutionary educational model that links communities, families and
schools. Yale currently supports the development of 1,300 21st Century
schools across the United States.

What do these schools look like? Imagine this:

. A school that recognizes that learning begins early and helps prepare
children for school, before they enter kindergarten, through full-day,
year-round early care and education programs and partnerships with local
child-care providers (especially for children from economically
disadvantaged homes).

. A school that makes the most of out-of-school time while meeting the needs
of today's working families by offering safe, structured and stimulating
environments for school-age children when school is not in session. (This
can be accomplished through partnerships with churches and other civic and
community-based organizations.)

. A school that treats parents as partners and provides information and
support to be the best possible parents they can be, answering questions
about child development for nervous first-time parents, as well as helping
other parents deal with issues around student interests, homework, sibling
rivalry and self-esteem. (This approach has application for middle and high
schools, as well. This is where higher education and business and industry
fit as students explore interests in careers, professional aspirations,

. A school that understands that children who are healthy, well-fed and
physically fit can concentrate in class and learn better and promotes
children's wellness through preventive medical and dental services, mental
health services and improved nutrition and fitness.

Yale's approach reminds me of the partnerships that existed between the
schools and community organizations more than 40 years ago. As a youngster,
I participated in activities during the summer months that were both
academic and recreational. The schools provided the oversight and the
coordination, but the actual administration of the programs occurred at
churches and community centers near the homes. Funding came from a variety
of sources to pay teachers and directors and to provide the lunches for

Schools are doing a good job - that is not debatable. Can schools do more?
Should schools do more? Can parents and others do more to support the
efforts of teachers? Can the community groups do more? The answer to all
four questions is yes. And the more important question: Does everyone have a
stake in improving schools (including students themselves)? Yes.

Dr. Roberson, an educator, can be reached at

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