Community Schools as a Vehicle for Social Justice and Equity

Community Schools as a Vehicle for Social Justice and Equity

Monica A. Medina, Khaula H. Murtadha, Jim Grim
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0280-8.ch005
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A deficit narrative of academic success in low-performing schools is articulated in cultural norms set by those who fail to understand how poverty and racial inequality manifests through daily interactions, beliefs, and biases. Work to address race and poverty are emotional, complicated, and challenging because the concepts are avoided, minimized, or disputed by a dominant narrative and privileged cultures that oppress students of color. This chapter is not about a study of race or poverty nor does it seek to forward understanding of how race and class intersect. Instead, it focuses on the ways a university has promoted social justice and equity in the development of community schools. This work encompasses: the influence of change through advocacy and policy, issues of school culture and climate, and shared leadership. It recognizes emerging perceptions impacting health, violence, and food security that cause socio/emotional issues not considered when critically addressing issues of race and poverty. Therefore, community schools are a vehicle for social justice and equity.
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University And Community Engagement

The need for community engagement to challenge the interpretation of these issues warrants the authentic collaboration and application of resources by colleges and universities (Harkavy & Hartley, 2009). The need for partnerships with institutions of higher education can contribute to the coordination and alignment of P-12 and higher education goals by establishing a continuum of resources that address the holistic needs of children and their families and proactively address issues of race and privilege and the social context in which families live. The concerns prevalent in urban school communities are historical, complex, enduring, and multifaceted. Thus, the partnerships of universities and school communities can help by addressing the challenges and barriers in schools that prevent students from becoming academically successful and identifying the cultural assets that pragmatically define success. Now, more than ever, these partnerships must work at preparing professionals, teachers, administrators, and community leaders who can debunk deficit notions of struggling urban schools. The partnerships provide a counter-narrative focused on research that supports accomplishments and addresses the inequities that persistently plague these schools and their communities. Through the shared leadership, this work aims to obtain equity and social justice through democratic place making.

In Indiana, the community school movement has advanced for more than 20 years and has sustained one of the nation’s most comprehensive community school initiatives (Grim, Medina, & Officer, 2011) in Indianapolis. Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) champions the notion of University-Assisted Community Schools and exemplifies the model by offering valuable resources to enrich and support public education. As a mission-driven engaged anchor institution, IUPUI has learned from neighborhood schools and continues to work with community organizations to advance civic action, democratic voice, and social justice. Rather than ignoring inequities in local schools, IUPUI proactively addresses them. More than 17 university departments work with communities, demonstrating IUPUI’s commitment to civic engagement in urban schools. Despite progress made, the situation compels us to critically reflect on our community school/university perspectives and deepen efforts as we renew and advance the commitment to our urban public schools and their community though an equity and social justice lens.

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