The Need for Partnerships in the '90s

By Manuel N. Gómez

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.

Back to Table of Contents of the Fall 1993 Issue of On Common Ground

© 1997 by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute

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