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How to Form Partnerships

“This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.”

—President Barack Obama


School–community partnerships are common in schools that are closing the achievement gap. Such partnerships engage families, other community members, community leaders, and a wide variety of local businesses, agencies, institutions, and nonprofit organizations. The California P–16 (prekindergarten through higher education) Council, convened by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, suggests fostering partnerships as a strategy to help close the achievement gap:

Recommendation 3: Develop Partnerships to Close the Achievement Gap—Connecting schools with educational organizations, city and county agencies, faith-based organizations, parent groups, and businesses is necessary to foster partnerships that will support a well-defined student support system. Such partnerships recognize that students have needs outside the classroom that, if unmet, can significantly and adversely affect their ability to learn. Breaking down barriers and creating partnerships throughout California is an important step toward implementing a consistent approach to a high-quality and inclusive educational program.

Research from The Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University suggests that high quality school-community partnerships have positive effects on students, including improved attendance, motivation, conduct, and academic achievement. Partnerships have been shown to positively affect neighborhoods and communities as well. Developing a partnership involves many players and can be initiated by a school or a business, family, or community partner. The responsibility to provide leadership does not lie only with the school—others can lead the partnership development team through the process. 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.

The key to an effective community partnership is that members of a community bring to the table different resources, skills, and knowledge needed to take action. Such a partnership allows goals to be accomplished that could not be accomplished by one member alone. What lies before California now is an urgent need that will take unprecedented collaboration amongst all stakeholders. The development of strong partnerships, with focus and commitment, is crucial to addressing and ultimately closing the achievement gap.

Resources & Tools

ARCHES Primer on Partnerships (PDF)
This booklet introduces some elementary considerations in the establishment and launching of partnerships.

While the entire  UC Davis Community School Partnerships Toolkit is a valuable resource, the two sections below deal specifically with how to form partnerships:  Section 2 (PDF),  Beginning Steps (PDF), and  Section 4, How to Collaborate and Form Partnerships (PDF).

Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA. 2007. A Resource Aid Packet on Addressing Barriers to Learning: A Set of Surveys to Map What a School Has and What It Needs. Los Angeles, CA. School–Community Collaboration, pp. 45–51
The Community Toolbox: Bringing Solutions to Light

This site has a lot of excellent information. For specific information on forming partnerships, click on Table of Contents and see Parts D—I (chapters 8–35).

Taking Center Stage, Act II: A Portal for Middle Grades Educators
Valuable information on forming partnerships is provided under Recommendation 12 of the California Department of Education's Taking Center Stage, Act II Web site.