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Creating and Sustaining Effective K-12 School Partnerships: Firsthand Accounts of Promising Practices

reviewed by Sara Helfrich - August 10, 2020

coverTitle: Creating and Sustaining Effective K-12 School Partnerships: Firsthand Accounts of Promising Practices
Author(s): Ahmad R. Washington, Ramon B. Goings & Malik S. Henfield
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1641137940, Pages: 248, Year: 2019
Search for book at Amazon.com

The title of this book, while true to the contents, does not do the importance of the material justice. A quick search of book titles alone would not tell the reader that this book focuses on how educational leaders establish and cultivate partnerships to promote success for marginalized K-12 students. In a sea of books about partnerships, all important contributions to the field in their own right, this book stands out as one that focuses on work impacting students of color, primarily by researchers of color. These voices, and the work they share, are critical.

The included chapters focus on students from pre-kindergarten through college and the partnerships that form around them to help them be successful; partnerships among teachers, school counselors and administrators, university educators and researchers, and the community. With its focus on diverse student populations across the ages and from various locations and its broad focus on partnerships, any researcher interested in partnerships in education should be interested in this book.

Chapter One introduces the reader to the Black Panther Party’s Oakland Community School (OCS; 1971–1982). This full-service community school was conceptualized, implemented, and staffed by Black community members with the intention of educating and enhancing the well-being of Black children and their families. After examining the practices of the OCS and its positive impact on those it served, Baxley asserts that educators today need to “critically examine, dismantle, and transform school structures and practices; shift from ‘community input’… to Black Community Control; incorporate critical curriculum… and pedagogy; and reimagine methods for… understanding needs and assets of [communities]” (p. 14).

In Chapter Two, Brooms delves into a discussion of a precollege summer program for Black males, focusing on the factors that contributed to their participation and how they made meaning from their work. Brooms reports that participants found the program to be an important opportunity to learn more about college in general, the application process, and, most impactfully, that they belonged there. Precollege programs such as this one provide students with the opportunity to become closely connected with college counselors and others that can help empower them to reach their goals.

In Chapter Three, Easton-Brooks and Kindle share how one teacher education program promotes high quality teaching and equitable education by including a clinical residency instructor (CRI). They contend that programs must include support from mentor teachers, school and district administrators, and university faculty. Given their rural location, this approach necessitates having an individual act as liaison between these individuals; thus, the CRI, who serves as liaison, instructor, coach, and mediator.

Partnerships between K-12 schools and universities often allow for the opportunity for research. Unfortunately, as Gibson, Bridges, and Barnes discuss in Chapter Four, this opportunity is not always welcome. The authors, in their work at one large urban high school, found that teachers and school personnel can feel pressured by district administrators to participate and have misperceptions about and distrust for outsiders. To resolve this and create better, sustainable partnerships, researchers need to share expertise, maintain a consistent presence in the school after the research is complete, and establish trust, becoming “thought partners” (p. 67) who are equally invested in the school’s well-being.

Chapter Five focuses its discussion on one New York City-based transfer high school tasked with re-engaging students who have dropped out or fallen behind. In Gray-Nicolas’s research, two themes emerged: collaboration and community. Collaboration occurred between students, school staff, and partnering organizations. Community refers to the important work undertaken with the help of individuals or groups “outside” of the school, such as parents.

Chapter Six approaches partnerships through the lens of cogenerative dialogue (cogen). Employing cogen in the classroom allowed for highly informative dialogue between students and the teacher. The students provided regular, anonymous feedback to their teacher about the lessons they were learning in their seventh-grade pre-algebra class. Through their research, Id-Deen and Balthazar found that students “identified practices… aligned with a pedagogy of poverty… characterized [by] teachers taking authority and silencing students… through the use of teacher-centered instruction and… worksheets” (p. 98). The use of cogen allowed the teacher to recognize these practices and modify instruction to allow for more active student engagement.  

In Chapter Seven, Riddick introduces the reader to the Adventures in Science Education (AISE) program, created to increase Philadelphia’s African-American students’ access to hands-on STEM education. This program utilizes various members of the community: students from local universities, religious leaders, parents, and school district personnel. AISE activities include half-day hands-on sessions during the school year; support for participation in the city’s science fair, the largest urban science fair in the country; citywide science events for community members of all ages; and a STEM Pipeline to keep matriculated participants connected to Philadelphia’s science community. Riddick identifies academic and sociocultural successes associated with AISE programming. Student participants gained significant experience with and understanding of science concepts and routinely placed among the highest levels at the ultra-competitive science fair. College student volunteers found themselves examining their perceptions of what an inner-city neighborhood was like while the AISE students gained the experience of working with a diverse group of people within a safe space.

In Chapter Eight, the reader revisits the topic of college readiness programs as authors Robinson, Robinson, and Ward Randolph share the experiences of stakeholders involved in one such program run by a Black community non-profit organization. Following a thorough examination of the literature, they go into detail about how this highly structured, successful program helps high school seniors from under-resourced populations “improve their life trajectories” (p. 148) by providing quality programming that helps them with, among other things, college preparation, health and wellness, time management, and financial literacy.

The Enhancing Children’s Healthy Opportunities (ECHO) program is the focus of Chapter Nine. In this in-depth analysis of the project, Sell details how a partnership between a public school district, a mental health organization, a community organization, and a university improved school outcomes in two high poverty elementary schools with significant rates of transiency. Interventions available to the students included school counseling, school-based clinician services, parent education and family social programs, and after-school tutoring, leading to an increase in students’ academic achievement and attendance. Riddick’s discussion provides extensive detail on the work and positive impact of the large-scale partnership.

Finally, Chapter Ten takes a different look at the traditional partnership between a school district and university by focusing on early career educators’ exploration of their understandings and practices related to Black student achievement. West-Burns and Murray helped educators question and deepen their understandings by engaging in conversations about race and racial identity, oppression, anti-bias, and equity. As a result of these learning sessions, teachers began questioning the Eurocentric frame in which many concepts are taught, engaging with students in deeper conversations about race and questioning larger systemic issues that exist.

Overall, the strength of this book lies in the voices of those within it; the researchers and the individuals that make up the powerful partnerships intended to positively impact the students and communities they serve.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 10, 2020
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23404, Date Accessed: 5/20/2022 11:48:04 PM

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About the Author
  • Sara Helfrich
    Ohio University
    E-mail Author
    SARA HELFRICH, Ph.D., serves as Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the Patton College of Education at Ohio University. Her research focuses on the role of the partnership in K-5 teacher preparation and teacher preparation within the context of literacy instruction, including self-efficacy and knowledge related to teaching reading. Her current projects include co-editing the book Exemplary clinical models of teacher education and a recently awarded guest editorship of a 2021 special-themed issue of School University Partnerships (Theme: Teaching in uncertain times).
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