How to Improve School Attendance

A Practical Guide for Schools and School Districts
A Project of the Los Angeles County Education Coordinating Council

Module 4: School-Community Partnerships—2

Models for School-Community Partnerships

Comprehensive Needs Assessment/Community Mapping

School-community partnerships are geographic in nature, as they involve connections with specific resources and stakeholders in a geographic area (often a neighborhood) surrounding a school or group of schools. Performing a comprehensive needs assessment, or community mapping, is a first critical step in building effective school-community partnerships. This type of community mapping can be conducted in various ways—through technology and geo-spatial mapping or interviewing the community, for example—and still meet its goals. For further information, see The Components of a Comprehensive Plan in the Overview Module.

The principles of community mapping are rooted in the methodology called asset-based community development (ABCD),91 which seeks to identify and understand the strengths in a community in order to improve it. ABCD recognizes that local assets such as the skills of local residents or the strengths of local associations or open spaces are key building blocks in community development. Applied to education, the ABCD approach is about an intimate understanding of the community surrounding a school or schools, and a commitment to building relationships with identified assets to enhance student success.

❖  The Advancement Project

whiteBullet  The Advancement Project's Healthy Cities is the largest database of localized data and community services in the greater Los Angeles area. It allows users—from schools to CBOs to community members—to conduct research on their community, visualizing and manipulating community data through maps, to search for local services and to connect with resources.92 Healthy Cities is a critical resource to Los Angeles County schools, parents, and organizations when they seek to understand the community surrounding a school. Community-Engaged Mapping (CEM), a community-based data collection method of the Advancement Project's Urban Peace project, collects neighborhood-level data from participants on issues related to the health and physical environment of a community. Drawing upon mapping principles from Healthy Cities, the Advancement Project's Los Angeles office created the CEM tool to "situate the challenges faced by communities in the places and spaces in which they occur, obtaining community-based data to inform place-based issue analysis, planning, policy and intervention."93

whiteBullet  In particular, a CEM exercise to improve education involved asking community members— particularly youth that attend schools in a focus area—to identify critical environmental design issues in their community that spur violence or deter school attendance, as well as the place-based community assets that help deter violence in their community. The CEM approach was used by the Advancement Project in Los Angeles's Belmont/Rampart neighborhood to inform safe-passages planning to promote school attendance by ensuring that young people had a safe route to and from school.94

❖  Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP)

whiteBullet  The Los Angeles Education Partnership has also incorporated a type of community mapping in their work on building community schools. When creating the community school model at Edison Middle School, the LAEP site coordinator at the school began by talking with everyone she could to get an overall picture of the school and the needs and assets of the surrounding community. She then started to align available assets and resources (student clubs, youth mentors, parent engagement, and so on) with existing needs, creating additional resources where needed by developing strong community relationships.

❖  Mustangs on the Move (MOTM)

whiteBullet  Mustangs on the Move is a collaboration of Pasadena nonprofit organizations, high school students, and community members who are working together to provide after-school programming at John Muir High School in Northwest Pasadena. The school is located in a commercially blighted area of the community with few resources for teens. Flintridge Center—a nonprofit whose prevention and intervention programs combat the effects of poverty and violence in Northwest Pasadena and West Altadena—played a pivotal role in identifying community resources surrounding the school, and then mobilizing the community effort to provide extracurricular activities on campus. It has also provided financial and in-kind support to build the infrastructure and sustain the collaboration. Flintridge Center and mentoring agencies in Pasadena and Altadena are helping to turn around the lives of troubled youth through programs that match them with volunteer adult mentors who serve as positive role models, offering encouragement and guidance to help young people see themselves in a more self-affirming light and stay motivated and focused on their education. The support and guidance help keeps students on track so they can graduate and go on to lead productive lives.


90 Dawn Anderson-Butcher & Deb Ashton, Innovative Models of Collaboration to Serve Children, Youths,
Families, and Communities, 26 Children & Schools, 1, 39-53 (2004)
Mark R. Warren, Soo Hong, Carolyn L. Rubin & P.S. Uy, Beyond the bake sale: A community-based relational
approach to parent engagement in schools, 111 Teachers College, Columbia University, 2209-2254 (2009)
91 ABCD was developed from John Kretzmann and John L. McKnight's Asset-Based Community Development
Institute at Northwestern University;
93 From Caneel Fraser, Senior Policy Associate with the Advancement Project's Urban Peace project
94 Advancement Project's Urban Peace Safe School Passages

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