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Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory
This resource and training manual is part of a series from NWREL to assist in school improvement.
Publications are available in five areas:
Re-Engineering—Assists schools, districts, and communities in reshaping rules, roles, structures, and relationships to build capacity for long-term improvement Quality Teaching and Learning—Provides resources and strategies for teachers to improve curriculum, instruction, and assessment by promoting professional learning through reflective, collegial inquiry School, Family, and Community Partnerships—Promotes child and youth success by working with schools to build culturally responsive partnerships with families and communities Language and Literacy—Assists educators in understanding the complex nature of literacy development and identifying multiple ways to engage students in literacy learning that result in highly proficient read- ers, writers, and speakers Assessment—Helps schools identify, interpret, and use data to guide planning and accountability This project has been funded at least in part with federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education under contract number ED-01-CO-0013. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial prod- ucts, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.
These materials are in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission. The following acknowledgment is requested on materials that are reproduced: Developed by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, Portland, Oregon.
Connecting schools, families, and communities for youth success partnerships by design Cultivating Effective and Meaningful School-Family-Community Partnerships October 2002 By Debbie Ellis and Kendra Hughes Child and Family Program Dr. Steffen Saifer, Director School-Family-Community Partnerships Team Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory 101 SW Main, Suite 500 Portland, OR 97204 Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory Acknowledgments Partnerships by Design was a collaborative effort made possible by the assistance of many individuals within the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. The authors would like to thank the following individuals for their invaluable contributions: Lucy Barnett, Diane Dorfman, Randi Douglas, Keisha Edwards, Amy Fisher, Rafael Gomez, Richard Greenough, Lena Ko, Steffen Saifer, and Sharon St. Claire.
Special thanks to Suzie Boss, Linda Fitch, Eugenia Cooper Potter, Cathy Swoverland, and Patti Tucci for editing and technical assistance, and Denise Crabtree for design and layout.
The authors owe thanks to the following schools and contact individuals for setting up the student focus
groups that provided rich information for the “What will it look like when we get there?” section:
Humboldt Elementary School, Judy Bryant Tubman-Whitaker Middle School, S.U.N. School Summer Program, Cynthia Irving Multnomah Youth Advisory Committee, Leela Yellesetty Finally, we would like to acknowledge the School-Family-Community Partnership Team’s advisory committee members for their continued advice regarding the needs of students, parents, schools, and community
members in the area of education:
Peggy Ames Nerud, North Side Elementary School, Wolf Point, Montana Terry Bostick, Wallace School District, Wallace, Idaho Liz Flynn, Pasco School District, Pasco, Washington Mary Lou Kinney, Boise, Idaho Betty Klattenhoff, White Pass School District, Randle, Washington Lily Martinez, North Franklin School District, Othello, Washington Anita McClanahan, Oregon Department of Education, Salem, Oregon Steve Olczak, Reynolds High School, Troutdale, Oregon Barbara Riley, Family BASICS, Missoula, Montana Paul Sugar, Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, Juneau, Alaska
Why Was This Booklet Written?
Partnerships by Design: Cultivating Effective and Meaningful School-Family-Community Partnerships was written as a complement to the resource and training manual, Planning for Y outh Success (Dorfman, et al, 2001),
which outlines how family and community members can work with school staff and students to set standards for youth success that are unique to the community and create a project around a shared goal. Working through the manual together, representatives of the school community:
Identify characteristics that are most important for youth to be successful in their community Consider ways to determine that students are developing these characteristics Identify resources and assets in the community that will help youth develop the desired characteristics Plan and implement a project to promote the characteristics, then evaluate the effectiveness of the project, and communicate findings to the public Partnerships by Design lays a foundation for partnership building that can help facilitate this process.
Partnerships by Design is based on the assumption that many educators have been actively seeking to involve families, but are not getting the results they desire. It is designed to help educators move beyond relying on typical family involvement activities toward building more effective and meaningful school-family-community partnerships within their classrooms, programs, or schools.
How Is This Booklet Unique?
Partnerships by Design is a practical, realistic tool, focused on working with families and the community, that provides easy-to-read information and an efficient planning process. It contains simple forms, worksheets,
and activities that will help you write your own school-family-community partnership plan, including:
Assessing the current state of your collaboration with families and community members Forming a vision of what you want your partnerships to look like in the future Setting up a plan of action that includes defining simple goals and objectives, outlining options for new partnership activities, and creating a process for regularly evaluating and revising the partnership plan Partnerships by Design also includes “Ideas for Action”—hints, tips, and practical suggestions for putting your plans into action. Although this booklet is quite comprehensive, the activities can be completed quickly. In just one evening, you can come away with a plan of action that, if followed, can build a foundation for creating, building, and sustaining meaningful school-family-community partnerships.
1 How To Use This Booklet Partnerships by Design is written to assist a partnership development team in creating its school (or program) partnership plan. The team should include three to four members from each of the following groups: students, family members, community members, and school staff. If possible, there should be equal numbers of people representing each of these four groups. All four are essential to the process, and each has unique contributions to make and distinctive benefits to receive.
When choosing team participants, the goal is to create a diverse team that will represent all members of your school community. Include, among others, principals, teachers, district personnel, school board members, front office staff, teacher’s aides, bus drivers, lunchroom staff, and playground monitors as possible members to represent school staff. Consider parents, stepparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, foster parents and guardians, siblings, and even close family friends when including family members. When recruiting team members, actively seek those who don’t typically volunteer, attend school functions, or hold leadership roles in the school community. Choose team members who have regular and consistent contact with those they represent so they can accurately present the views of their peers, speak knowledgeably on their behalf, and take issues and action items back to them.
Because the partnership development team represents the entire school community, the team can build a sense of community, address the strengths of their practices, identify needed changes and expectations, and link activities to their school improvement goals.
Another unique aspect of Partnerships by Design is that it has been written so that anyone can lead the partnership development team through the process—the responsibility to provide leadership does not lie only with the school. The process can be owned by all concerned community members, and the role of leader can be facilitated by anyone who has the time, energy, and desire to handle the task. For instance, many schools work with National Service (AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve) volunteers. These volunteers, trained in leadership and capacity building, would be well-suited to lead the process and spearhead many of the school’s partnership activities.
Partnerships by Design can also be used as a self-directed study guide. Educators can modify the forms and activities to fit their individual needs, and use the information gained to improve their own practices and increase partnerships.
What You Will Need To Get Started Have the following items available to help answer questions and provide information when working on
your partnership plan:
Your school improvement plan Demographic information about your school and district Artifacts (such as school newsletters) Specific learning goals for students Curriculum plans 2 Background Family involvement in education has long been considered an essential component of children’s academic success. Parents, teachers, school administrators, and policymakers all agree that family involvement makes a significant difference, and research has shown that increased family involvement boosts student attendance and attitudes toward school, decreases student discipline problems, and increases student achievement and aspirations (Caplan, Choy, & Whitmore, 1992; Henderson & Berla, 1994).
In a 2002 educational needs assessment survey, “fostering a high level of parent involvement in their children’s learning” was a very high priority for Northwest teachers, principals, superintendents, and board chairs. It was the number-one issue for teachers and principals in high-poverty schools: more than 90 percent of teachers and 85 percent of principals in such schools rated it as needing more or much more effort (Barnett & Greenough, 2002). These regional findings mirror the national findings that most teachers (83 percent) would like to see the level of parental involvement in their schools increase, with nearly all inner-city educators (95 percent) wanting parents more involved (Binns, Steinberg, & Amorosi, 1997).
While so many see the value in partnerships and want to know more about how to foster high levels of family involvement in their children’s learning and in their schools, many educators struggle to get family
members involved. They face questions, such as:
How can we produce meaningful family involvement in our school?
How can we create effective school-family-community partnerships that include a wide variety of participants?
How can we involve more family and community members, in addition to the same small core group who regularly come to events and volunteer for activities?
How can we show that our partnership activities have a positive impact on student achievement?
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 In the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, No Child Left Behind, there was a notable shift in the expected role of parental involvement in schools and an increase in the responsibilities of teachers and administrators. The act includes new provisions increasing parental notification requirements, parental selection of educational options, and parental involvement in school governance.
The new law envisions parents as informed and empowered decisionmakers in their children’s education (Gomez & Greenough, 2002).
Much of the information communicated by the media related to the new law focuses on informing parents of the failures of some schools and providing parents with information regarding their option to transfer their child from a “failing” school to another public school. Instead of focusing only on the negatives,
educators can also view the new legislation as creating opportunities and prompting them to ask:
How can we work more closely with parents as partners in the success of our school?
How can we use the provisions for increased parental notification as a way to advertise our successes?
How can we widen the design of the provision of parental choice to include families in the school processes that lead to greater academic achievement and youth success?
3 Introduction to the Partnerships by Design Process All the above questions and the new legislation beg for an effective partnership plan. Today, two out of three new business ventures fail—mostly due to a lack of a clearly spelled-out business plan. For those who create a solid, well-thought-out plan, success nearly doubles. The same can be said for school-family-community partnerships. If schools fail to plan for effective partnerships, their involvement efforts may not bring about the desired results.
Why have a written partnership plan? Formulating a plan will force you to think about where you want your partnership to go and how you are going to get there. It will become a road map to follow as your partnerships grow and develop—providing a definite direction and a much clearer, focused idea of what can be expected from your partnerships, thus increasing your odds for success. A written plan will help form the guidelines for developing meaningful, well-planned, and long-lasting partnerships.
The planning process should answer many questions you may not have thought about as well as prompt questions that may turn into opportunities in the future. Because there is no one formula for success in creating school-family-community partnerships, your plan should be based on your local needs and circumstances. Although creating a plan may take a great deal of time and energy, it will be well worth the effort.