During few times in our country’s history has leadership in education been more critical. Far too many communities continue to face the enduring impacts of systematic racism and generational poverty. Our nation’s schools have also been impacted by COVID-19 and, for many, the effects are staggering and could last for years. At the same time, as the pandemic shuttered school doors across the country, numerous education allies rose to the occasion—from families to community nonprofits to employers to media companies. As argued in the Brookings report “Beyond reopening schools: How education can emerge stronger than before COVID-19,” public support for the central role schools play in community life has never been higher.

Taken altogether, this situation presents a series of linked challenges, as well as what may be a once-in-a-century opportunity to reimagine school in ways that nurture the gifts and talents of every child and family. By seizing the moment, we can lay the foundation for a new way of schooling that our nation needs—one that is flexible, customized to local needs and equitable, and that brings together educators, communities, and families to support every student every day. This will require an immediate investment in the scaling of a proven solution that addresses educational inequities and leapfrogs our school system toward a new way of teaching and learning that honors local assets and helps students develop the competencies and skills they need to thrive in work, life, and citizenship.

We, the Brookings Institution’s Task Force on Next Generation Community Schools, recommend the transformation of U.S. schools into community schools—centering initial efforts on the 4 percent of school districts that educate approximately 40 percent of the country’s children, include urban and rural communities across the nation, and have the greatest concentration of unmet student needs (see Figure 1). Community schools integrate, rather than silo, the services that children and families need, thus ensuring that funding for health, mental health, expanded learning time, and social services is well spent and effective.

Read the full article about addressing inequality at Brookings .