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The School of the 21st Century (21C) is a community school model that incorporates childcare and family support services into schools. Its overall goal is to promote the optimal growth and development of children beginning at birth.

The 21C Schools concept was the idea of Yale University Professor Edward F. Zigler and developed for national implementation by Dr. Matia Finn-Stevenson, also at Yale. The program is based on the recognition that changes in patterns of work and family life in recent decades have meant new concerns for parents, especially a pressing need for affordable, quality child care. These same changes have also meant challenges for educators seeking to ensure that children arrive at school ready to learn and receive the support they need to succeed academically.

Although the wisdom of school-linked services is now widely accepted, when the 21C Schools concept was first launched in 1988 it was one of the first national initiatives to capitalize on the synergy between the family and schools. To date, 21C Schools have been implemented in more than 1300 schools around the country. In Connecticut and Kentucky, where 21C Schools are known as Family Resource Centers, statewide legislation has been modeled on the 21C Schools design. In Arkansas, a statewide network of 21C Schools is being supported by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. In Arkadelphia, Arkansas, the Ross Foundation is supporting a district - wide implementation of the program.

In addition to promoting the notions of linking childcare and education and the use of the school for the provision of child and family support services, 21C Schools paved the way for current discussions on universal preschool. Universally accessible childcare (childcare for all children whose family need or want childcare) is one of the guiding principles of 21C Schools and has been a distinguishing aspect of the program since its inception.

The School of the 21st Century is an initiative of The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University. Yale 21C's directors, staff, affiliated research associates and peer trainers provide training, technical assistance, and evaluation services for schools and communities implementing the 21C model.