External Partnering with Public Schools
Schools team up with external partners for a variety of reasons, and in numerous capacities. Schools may partner with for-profit or non-profit organizations, businesses, or product sale organizations. The aim of partnering may be as simple as fundraising, or as complex as supporting a new charter school, undergoing site-based reform, or engaging in a new school-community partnership such as a mentoring program for the school's youth. Today, schools are collaborating with outside providers more than ever before, and the breadth of providers is vast. There are many steps schools can take to ensure these partnerships are successful.
Keywords Charter Schools; External Funding; For-Profit Organization; Fundraising; Non-Profit Organization; Product Sales; Professional Development; Site-based Reform; School-Community Partnership
The American system of public education has seen many changes since the beginning of the twentieth century. Today's schools are increasingly complex and cater to a diverse array of students. It is projected by 2040 that there will be no ethnic majority in the United States (National Association of State Boards of Education, 2001). Today, schools serve communities that are increasingly multi-cultural, and students are from a wide scope of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, the world economy has become increasingly globalized. In these times, policy makers believe that it is imperative that our schools adequately prepare our students for an increasingly global community, in which students must be ready and able to communicate with and relate to a multiplicity of cultures. In order for Americans to remain competitive in the global economy, we must have a well educated workforce.
As these changes occur, Americans face a challenge to educate and prepare those who are most underserved. Researchers believe that America's current achievement gap between poor and minority students and their white counterparts who are socioeconomically more well off puts the country at risk in the new global marketplace. Large groups of American youth are not receiving a competitive education that will prepare them to meet the challenges of living in the twenty-first century.
Today, largely due to the fear that we are not adequately preparing our youth to succeed in the future, the public has increasingly demanded school improvement and accountability, increasing the pressure on schools to improve student learning, especially for those in underserved communities, or are otherwise at-risk. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) recently augmented the burden on schools to perform at a certain level or face consequences. In order to meet the needs of students and parents, many schools are joining forces with external partners to help them achieve their goals (Finnigan & O'Day, 2003).
These partnerships may be established for a variety of reasons. External partners may contribute to schools financially, through in-kind services, or provide other supports such as out-of-school time programs. The goals of partnering vary: partners may assist in improving student achievement through improving instructional methods of teachers; they may provide data analysis, increase professional development services for teachers and staff, or promote partnerships between the school and the community. In other situations, the partner may provide funds, or help the school raise needed funds for a certain project or venture (Finnigan & O'Day, 2003; Hassel & Steiner, 2004). Research has shown that schools who reach out to their surrounding community and the families of the students can advance student outcomes (Henderson & Mapp, 2002).
Schools may seek external partnerships for a variety of reasons such as offering higher quality professional development or providing students with additional services. Many schools may seek external partners because they simply cannot provide all of the services that their students need to succeed in school. Schools that are located in underserved communities serve individuals and families who are often in need of extensive services that address various issues such as poverty, health, or social services. While many external partners will address the educational needs of the students, there are also instances in which partnerships address other concerns such as health care or other social services (Decker, Decker, & Brown, 2007). These partnerships will ideally help the school reach various goals that will improve the overall functioning of the school, and help improve student learning.
There are many types of external partnerships including fundraising partnerships, teaming with colleges and universities, and working with private providers. Partnering with external providers does not guarantee a school's success in meeting its goals of effectively educating their students; however, there are ways in which the school can control the success of the venture.
Types of External Partners
Perhaps the most well-known and simple example of an external partner is a fundraising partner. The National Education Association (NEA) released a report in 2012 pointing out that schools continue to be state funded with a share of funding from the federal level. a severe deficit in school funding for today's modern society. A report in 2011 explained that an estimated 14 million US children attend public schools that are deteriorating, and of the 80,000 public school in the nation at that time, over one-third needed “extensive repair or replacement and at least two-thirds have unhealthy environmental conditions.” Additionally, the Department of Education stated that 43 percent of US schools indicated that the condition of their schools interfered with daily instruction (Long, 2011). While a 2000 National Education Association report concluded that that public schools needed $322 billion to modernize schools—maintain buildings and improve facilities by providing technology use to students—a 2013 report (Center for Green Schools, 2013) reported an estimate $542 billion would be needed (CBS News, 2013). Many schools experience budget constraints and deficits in other areas as well. Survey data show that over 90 percent of all schools raise supplemental funds, with a large majority of schools reporting that fundraising has increased in the last ten years. In addition to the monetary returns, schools report that fundraising also helps strengthen ties to parents and the community. Funds raised are most often put towards classroom supplies, but may also be placed in other areas of the school budget, including field trips or maintenance costs. Often, school fundraising is the responsibility of the parent and teacher organizations within the school. The most traditional fundraising efforts include book sales and product sales. However, schools are now also engaging in fundraising efforts that take less effort or manpower. For examples, schools may hire a development director to write grants to foundations that support educational endeavors; similarly, they may partner with local or national businesses who will donate a particular amount of money spent in their store to a specific school in their community (Coburn, 2001).
Some schools may also partner with colleges and universities in various capacities to achieve goals. Professors may provide perspectives or consulting expertise to schools based on their research; college students may work in various capacities with the schools as well (Hassel & Steiner, 2004). In schools that are restructuring or trying to improve an element of their curriculum or instructional methods, colleges or universities may be helpful in providing knowledge of the latest research or procedures. Professors may act as consultants in a certain project and work with administrators or teachers to improve these aspects of the school. At many institutions, the students may get involved in partnering with schools as well. Schools may set up programs with the local university that recruits college students to partner with schools to conduct research, or work as teaching assistants for educators in the school.
Private providers encompass a wide breadth of services. They may be for-profit or non-profit organizations or individuals (Hassel & Steiner, 2004). The range of partnership can be as simple as a donation of materials or time, or can be a much more complex undertaking. For example, a test preparation company may partner with a school by donating test preparation materials or an instructor's time. This would likely be a short term commitment and the goal would be clear and measurable. The partnership may also get more complicated and require more commitment and leg work from the school and the organization providing the service, such as in a scenario in which a non-profit...
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