Campus-Community Initiatives

Midwest Center for University-Assisted Community Schools

The Midwest Center for University-Assisted Community Schools is a collaboration among the Center for Service and Learning, IU School of Education, and Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center funded by the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania.

A university-assisted community school provides a wide array of services designed to support school staff, partners, students, families, and the surrounding community to implement community school strategies in partnership with institutions of higher education.

Institutions of higher education are often an untapped and underutilized resource in communities that can provide a key partnership in the development and implementation of community schools. These partnerships are often mutually beneficial, impacting K–12 schools, student achievement, community development and higher education research, teaching, and service for faculty, staff, and students.

  • Rationale

    It is no secret that there is national urgency to improve student success and educational outcomes in public schools. Given the increasing mantra calling for academic achievement gains in America’s public schools—particularly urban schools labeled “failing”—the need for community engagement to tackle a host of underlying social challenges warrants the resources of the nation’s colleges and universities (Harkavy & Hartley, 2009). Institutions of higher education have long histories of investing their intellectual resources throughout communities, but not since widespread school consolidation and “racial equality” busing has the importance of additional assistance to America’s schools been so heightened. Serious school reform must be built upon authentic family/school/community engagement, according to a seven-year study by researchers at the University of Chicago who looked into some 200 “turnaround” schools and found that only 10 percent of the turnaround schools without solid family and community engagement (or one of four other identified essentials) realized academic improvement (Bryk, Sebring et al., 2010). The university-assisted community school model targets higher education linkages as a way to provide resources to local public school communities. University-assisted schools are being adapted as a model for education reform to develop partnerships and create collaborative solutions to learning barriers. This university-assisted model allows schools and institutions of higher education to collaborate to build communities together, secure and maintain needed resources, provide funding and research opportunities, and provide long-term commitments that can deliver positive outcomes.

  • About Our Center

    The mission of the Midwest Center for University-Assisted Community Schools is to provide technical assistance and training for school communities interested in implementing and strengthening the community schools model and university collaboration.

    Our vision is that school communities throughout the Midwest draw upon the assets of their neighborhoods and partnering institutions of higher education to provide the necessary conditions for learning for youth, their families, and neighbors.

    Our work draws upon the extensive IUPUI/George Washington Community High School (GWCHS) experience and that of GWCHS’s feeder elementary schools. Emerging work includes the local Martindale Brightwood Alliance for Educational Opportunity, which supplements this experience, particularly in deepening university-assisted research, capturing data to document results from strategic school/community engagement, and the university-based on-site Adult Learning Centers housed within each school.

  • Guiding Principles

    • We recognize that the community schools movement promotes a strategy that draws upon the rich resources of its entire community to support student learning by providing needed services to strengthen the students and their families and communities.
    • We believe a community school is the hub of its neighborhood, providing support services for youth, their families, and neighbors beyond school hours, evenings, and weekends. While the school is viewed as a focus of the neighborhood, the community is valued as a vital support in the success of its students, their families, and communities.
    • To achieve optimal results, we prioritize engagement with institutions of higher education and school communities that desire but are not mandated to implement community school strategies in their respective communities.
    • We strive to facilitate practical training and workshops for university faculty, students, and staff as well as K–12 faculty, staff, and community stakeholders to develop customized strategic goals, plans, partners, structures, and outcomes.
    • We seek and promote research findings related to community and P-20 educational achievement outcomes to help advance the national debate on education reform and university-assisted community schools as a viable reform model.
  • Strategic Goals

    Training/Capacity Building

    To create practical training opportunities for community schools and higher education stakeholders to build and enhance their ability to implement successful community school strategies.

    Technical Assistance

    To provide customized technical assistance that enables community school and higher education stakeholders to implement successful community school strategies.


    To research the effectiveness and impact of university-assisted community schools. Research will provide qualitative and quantitative data to support the community school initiative and implementation at a local, regional, and national level.


    To increase awareness throughout the city of Indianapolis of the benefits provided by community schools in educating youth and developing financially stable schools. The Midwest Center strives for district-wide reform for community schools throughout Indianapolis.

For more information, please contact the Midwest Center at