Dissertations and Theses

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (DPH)


Community Health and Social Sciences


Nicholas Freudenberg

Committee Members

Kecia Hayes

Andrew Maroko

Christina Zarcadoolas

Subject Categories

Education | Public Health | Spatial Science


community schools, education, health equity


Community schools link students, families, and communities to educate children and strengthen neighborhoods. They have become a popular model for education in many U.S. cities in part because they build on community assets and address multiple determinants of educational disadvantage. Since community schools seek to have an impact on populations, not just the students enrolled, they provide an opportunity to improve community health. It has been proposed that community schools influence the health and education of the area residents through three pathways: building trust, establishing norms, and linking people to networks and services. However, no research has been published exploring how community schools may be influencing these pathways. The aims of this research were three-fold:

  • AIM 1: Develop an inventory of NYC community schools using a database that includes school characteristics (e.g., types of programs and services) and population characteristics of students, their families, and the communities in which the schools exist (e.g., level of instruction, demographic breakdowns, and poverty level). Explore if certain essential components of community schools exist that influence educational outcomes.
  • AIM 2: Identify if there is a relationship between health (e.g., vaccination rates, health insurance rates, chronic disease management) and social characteristics (e.g., crime rates) of NYC community districts and density of established community schools (established CSs defined as established 1992-2006; new CSs defined as established 2007-present).
  • AIM 3: Through a series of in-depth interviews, investigate the possible pathways through which community based organizations (CBOs), as official partners of community schools, address the neighborhood-level social processes shown to influence educational and health outcomes.

Findings revealed that the current model of community schools in New York City may not be emphasizing the most effective components of community schools and therefore are not showing the anticipated association between health and academic outcomes. However, the density of community schools within community districts appear to influence certain neighborhoods in New York City more than others. Community schools may be most effective in neighborhoods with certain characteristics such as concentrated poverty or high rates of homelessness. Qualitative research suggests community-influence is due to a community school’s ability to build trust among parents and between parents and schools. Recommendations for future research to further these findings are outlined.

This collection of research suggests that community schools offer a new way to use an established institution to widen their influence on health and educational outcomes from just students within their walls to entire communities that surround the school building mainly through building trust, but also through creating and revealing common norms and linking residents to networks.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.