The 1980s could easily be characterized as a decade of reports critical of
American educatioboth K-12 and higher education. The 1990s may well
be characterized as a decade of restructuring American educationwith
the emergence of school-university partnership efforts as a driving force.
Over the last ten years I have been working with a partnership effort
named Project STEP. This work encompasses a broad range of activities
focused on student academic support, curricular and professional
development, and parental participation. It is guided by four major
principles that have emerged from our joint experience:
The conviction that collaboration involving each sector in the entire
educational continuum, and including faculty, staff, and parents, can
advance more effective learning;
The belief that a comprehensive scope of activities, involving teachers
directly, and engaging them in discipline based dialogues across the
curricular spectrum holds significant promise for school-based reform;
The certainty that higher education should cooperate with secondary
schools for a reciprocal sharing of a variety of resources to improve
teaching and learning;
The belief that sustaining our collaboration is fostered through the
development of a formal administrative organization structure that
includes the participation of chief executive officers.
Linkages Offer a National Strategy
Those of us involved in the building of partnership programs are convinced
more than ever that linkages between K-12 and higher education, as well as
with the business and corporate community, offer the nation a viable
strategy for implementing on a broad scale substantial reforms in American
education. Such partnerships have a particular significance for serving
the educational aspirations of underrepresented minorities.
In California for example, a larger and more diverse pool of high school
seniors are now eligible for admission to the University of California
than several years ago. This is, in part, due to collaborative reform
efforts between K-12 schools and higher education.
Effective Relationships = Effective Education
In many ways, the partnership movement reflects a basic understanding that
effective relationships equate to effective education for all students. It
takes a good relationship between a teacher and studenta
relationship that is informed by the best available knowledge about
learning and teachingto have authentic learning taking place.
Effective relationships between teachers and administrators, between
schools and parents, and between schools, colleges, and universities, thus
equate to effective education.
Enhancing the Teaching Profession
Partnerships also provide valuable opportunities for faculty at different
levels within the educational system to exchange ideas and to plan and
learn new skills and practices. Programs that support collegial
relationships among K-12 and higher education facultyproviding, for
example, a forum that permits teachers to work together in addressing
specific curricular concerns within their disciplineoffer a
promising path for enhancing the teaching profession.
Collaboration provides the opportunity for K-12 educators to assume the
leadership in partnerships with university and college relationships in
forming their own schools. Partnership programs address, on a continuing
basis, the institutional as well as the individual teacher's insularity or
isolationoffering mediating structures that allow for the upgrading
of the education profession at all levels.
Long-Term Efforts Needed
People engaged in partnerships know that there are no quick-fix solutions
and realize that these efforts must be long-term and sustained if they are
to yield any significant breakthroughs. A strong empirical foundation is
emerging indicating the benefits of establishing cooperative linkages
between schools, colleges, and universities, between the home and the
school, between education and the business and community leadership.
Renewed Optimism for Change
If we are serious about educational restructuring and the necessary
transformation of the quality of our schooling across the educational
continuum from K-12 to graduate study, it will require a much greater
degree of substantive cooperation between schools and universities than
has been the case in previous years. The challenge we face is a serious
one. There are problems that remain, but they are not insurmountable. I am
pleased therefore that On Common Ground is dedicated to advancing
knowledge and information related to our educational partnerships.