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Enhancing Student Outcomes Through School-Community Partnerships, High-Quality Data

NCSL Education Policy Academy highlights community partnerships, data-driven decisions, and their connections to student success.

By Autumn Rivera and Molly Gold  |  April 15, 2024

An informal group of legislators and legislative staff came together in Florida recently to explore two crucial topics: community partnerships and data-driven decision-making in education. The NCSL Education Legislative Policy Academy started with an exploration of attendees’ policy priorities and experiences in their respective states, setting the stage for more in-depth discussions.

Community Partnerships

Abe Fernandez with the National Center for Community Schools explained how community schools enhance student well-being by integrating academics, engagement, health and youth development. Shaunna Finley with Communities in Schools highlighted the success her organization has had in connecting students with community resources tailored to their individual needs, helping them thrive in school and life.

Federal Funding Updates

NCSL’s Austin Reid, joining virtually from Washington, D.C., briefed attendees on federal COVID-19 relief funds for education. Reid covered how Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds have been spent, gave an overview of aid spending by state and highlighted key considerations for states moving forward.

Out-of-School Learning

Jennifer Smith, sponsor of the Wisconsin Afterschool Network, stressed the significance of promoting student well-being through out-of-school opportunities, underscoring the importance of robust collaboration between schools and communities. Smith cited the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a set of surveys the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses to monitor behaviors associated with poor health in students in grades nine through 12. Wisconsin students, she said, who were engaged in extracurricular activities outside of regular school hours reported significantly lower rates of depression and anxiety, along with a heightened sense of belonging, compared with their peers not involved in such activities.

Tiffany Gipson said the California Afterschool Network’s approach to student well-being centers on school-community partnerships that support afterschool programs, build social-emotional/workforce skills and promote the holistic development of the child.

Terry Peterson of the Riley Institute said school-family-community partnerships play a crucial role in fostering the holistic development of children and youth. Peterson cited research demonstrating that high-quality afterschool and summer programs can help narrow the achievement gap, promote student engagement and well-being, and help prevent absenteeism. He offered practical strategies for implementing effective programs in states.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

Craig Peterson and Janice Silver from Panorama Education collaborated to highlight the importance of data-driven decision-making in education. Their session focused on Panorama’s innovative data capabilities, providing educators with actionable insights to improve student outcomes. They emphasized how data-driven approaches can boost educational innovation, transform student support strategies, and enhance school improvement efforts.

Paige Kowalski, Kate Akers and Camila Camborda from the Data Quality Campaign led participants in interactive sessions on building education data systems that cater to all decision-makers. They said that accessible data helps stakeholders, from students and parents to legislators, make informed decisions. Attendees reflected on the current accessibility of education and workforce data and the existing data ecosystem in their states. Discussions centered on the need to connect data across systems and present resulting information back to the community in a user-friendly manner. Attendees used information from the discussions to develop action plans based on their specific contexts.


The policy academy offered attendees a wealth of insights and resources to enhance student outcomes through community supports such as afterschool and summer learning programs and improved access to education data for decision-makers. The discussions underscored the value of education and workforce systems, community organizations, stakeholders and policymakers collaborating to ensure that all students, parents and educators have access to the necessary resources for success.

Visit NCSL’s websites for more information and resources on afterschool and summer learning programs.

Interested in NCSL Legislative Policy Academies? Stay tuned for more opportunities to dive deeper into various policy areas.

Autumn Rivera is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Education Program.

Molly Gold is a program principal in NCSL’s Education Program.

Community Partnership Resources:

Data Resources:

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