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Seven elements for effective community-school partnerships

Effective 21st-century education means the entire community must be involved, experts say

Seven elements for effective community-school partnerships

These partnerships are especially important in inner cities and low-income communities, where children’s lack of access to needed services (such as mental health care) can interfere with learning.

Overall, a good partnership for learning offers high-quality education, youth development, physical and mental health support, family support, family and community engagement, and community development.

According to the report, by offering an array of combined services, community schools are able to create five “conditions” that research indicates are necessary for youth to succeed:

  • A core instructional program that includes qualified teachers, a challenging curriculum, and high standards and expectations for youth;
  • Youth who are motivated and engaged in learning in and out of school;
  • Services that address youth’s and families’ physical, mental, and emotional health needs;
  • Mutual respect and effective collaboration among families and school staff; and
  • Community engagement that promotes a safe, supportive, and respectful school climate and connects youth to a broader learning community.

Elements of successful partnerships for learning

Partnerships for learning require that all partners involved—including school staff, community providers and members, and families—understand and stick to strategies that encourage collaboration, says the report.

Seven elements are particularly important in establishing successful and sustainable partnerships:

1. A shared vision of learning: Partners share a common understanding of the goals and resources needed to support children’s learning.

2. Shared leadership and governance: Partners have an equal say in leading efforts to support children and families.

3. Complementary partnerships: Partners share complementary skills and areas of expertise to create a seamless and comprehensive set of learning supports for children.

4. Effective communication: Partners communicate effectively and frequently to ensure they are aligning their activities and are working in harmony with one another.

5. Regular and consistent sharing of information about youth progress: Partners have access to crucial data that help them better understand the youth they serve.

6. Family engagement: Families serve as key partners to help address the complex conditions and varied environments where children learn and grow.

7. Collaborative staffing models: Schools and community organizations create staffing structures that intentionally blend roles across partners, so that staff work in multiple settings to provide adult support spanning school and non-school hours.

The report further describes these elements by offering specific examples within Elev8 schools, based on evaluations that several research organizations have conducted since the beginning of the initiative.

In forthcoming papers and reports, researchers will reveal the social, emotional, and academic outcomes of Elev8 youth and their families.

Follow Assistant Editor Meris Stansbury on Twitter: @eSN_Meris

For more news and opinion about school reform, see:

Why schools must move beyond ‘one-to-one computing’

Gates Foundation: Test scores not enough for teacher evaluation

Will longer school year help or hurt U.S. students?


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  1. pirogue52

    April 28, 2013 at 3:13 am

    What can we do to immediately and emphatically stop this line of thinking?. Yes physical education with nutritional information is an important area of needed education. Bur parents need to get behind teachers and support them as they teach academics. But it takes concerned active parents to nurture and teach social and emotional areas. Yes, if a teacher sees emotional or behavior problems they should be very comfortable in bringing them to the attention of the parents and school health support. We should understand that children belong to the parents and not the community and understand that education is the focus of teachers. We need to make sure parents take individual responsibility for their children. It is NOT a community responsibility.