Community Schools and the Role of University-School-Community Collaboration


  • Kathleen Teresa Provinzano Drexel University
  • Ryan Riley Communities in Schools Pennsylvania
  • Bruce Levine Drexel University
  • Allen Grant Drexel University



community partnerships; integrated student supports; school-community transformation


Public school districts are locally controlled and funded through local property taxes. Funding schools this way perpetuates structural inequities in poorer school districts and as a result, students living in poverty have minimal access to critical resources that support student learning. Community schools are resurfacing in many of these urban spaces as a mechanism for addressing the systemic and structural inequities plaguing students, schools, and communities. Advocates posit that increasing student achievement requires addressing the needs of the whole child; conceptualizing schooling through this lens offers an expanded vision of what public education needs to be for many of today’s children. This paper aims to improve our overall understanding of community schools and highlights specific actions taken by community organizations and higher education institutions to create meaningful partnerships with public schools operating as community schools. The authors posit that collaborative and organically developed, grassroots relationships have the potential to alter the traditional dynamic between internal public school employees and external stakeholders, leading to school, student, and community transformation.

Author Biographies

Kathleen Teresa Provinzano, Drexel University

Assistant Professor

Ryan Riley, Communities in Schools Pennsylvania

President and State Director

Bruce Levine, Drexel University

Associate Clinical Professor

Allen Grant, Drexel University

Associate Clinical Professor


Angus, L. (2009). Problematizing neighborhood renewal: Community school effectiveness and

disadvantage. Critical Studies in Education, 50(1), 37-50. doi: 10.1080/17508480802526645.

Benson, L., Harkavy, I., & Puckett, J. (2007). Dewey’s dream: Universities and democracies in an age of education reform. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Benson, L., Harkavy, I., Johanek, M.C., & Puckett, J. (2009). The enduring appeal of community schools. American Educator, 33(2), 22-47. Retrieved from

Bredeson, P.V., Klar, H.W., & Johansson, O. (2011). Context responsive leadership: Examining superintendent leadership in context. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 19(18), Retrieved from doi:

Bronstein, L.R., & Mason, S.E. (2016). School-linked services: Promoting equity for children, families, and communities. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Education Law Center (2017, March). Money matters in education justice: Addressing racial and class inequities in Pennsylvania’s school funding system. Report prepared by the Education Law Center. Retried from

Fehrer, K., & Leos-Urbel, J. (2016). We’re one team: Examining community school implementation strategies in Oakland. Education Sciences, 6(26), 1-24. doi: 10.3390/educsci6030026

Frankl, E. (2016, February). Community schools: Transforming struggling schools into thriving schools. Report prepared for the Center for Popular Democracy, Washington, D.C.

Garland, S. (2013, August). When class became more important to a child’s education than race. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Heers, M., Van Klaveren, C., Groot, W., Maassen van den Brink, H. (2016). Community schools: What we know and what we need to know. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 1016-1051. doi:

Hochschild, J.L. (2003). Social class in public schools. Journal of Social Issues, 59(4), 821-840. doi: 10.1046/j.0022-4537.2003.00092.x

Houser, J.H.W. (2014). Community and school-sponsored program participation and academic achievement in a full-service community school. Education and Urban Society, 1-22. doi: 10.1177/0013124514533792

Jacobson, R., & Blank, M.J. (2011). Expanding the learning day: An essential component of the community schools strategy. New Directions for Youth Development, 131, 55-67. doi: 10.1002/yd.408

Jordan, W.J. (2010). Defining equity: Multiple perspectives to analyzing the performance of diverse learners. Review of Research in Education, 34, 142-178. doi: 10.3102/0091732X09352898

Kuh, G.D., Kinzie, J., Buckley, J.A., Bridges, B.K., Hayek, J.C. (2006, July). What matters to students’ success: A review of the literature. Commission report for the National Symposium on Postsecondary Student Success: Spearheading a dialog on student success. Retrieved from:

Lubell, E. (2011). Building community schools: A guide for action. Report prepared by the Children’s Aid Society National Center for Community Schools. Retrieved from

Roche, M.K. (2015). New federal education law boosts community schools. Retrieved from