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Navigating Fragility and Building Resilience: A School–University Partnership to Support the Development of a Full-Service Community School

by Leslie Rupert Herrenkohl, Kate Napolitan, Todd I. Herrenkohl, Elham Kazemi, Logan McAuley & David Phelps - 2019

Background/Context: The literature review by Phelps in this special issue highlights the challenges of research–practice partnerships and other forms of insider–outsider collaboration in education. In addition to addressing well-known challenges, this case study article focuses on the full-service community school model as a strategy to address holistic needs of students, families, and staff in poverty-impacted school contexts.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article documents work that was conducted across five years, when a large research university partnered with an urban elementary school to establish a full-service community school. It provides an account of the assets, challenges, and processes that impacted our work, from the planning phase through four years of implementation. It describes efforts around four main areas: academic excellence, extended learning, holistic health and wellness, and family engagement.

Research Design: This is a participatory case study with university educators and researchers working collaboratively with school professionals, community-based organizations, and families.

Data Collection and Analysis: Many sources of data were included in our case analysis, including formative and summative student assessments, student attendance, service referrals, and office referrals for behavior. Running records of meetings, documentation of events, presentations, and reports submitted were also included. Interviews with key actors in the project were also collected and analyzed.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Our partnership experienced some of the major challenges discussed in the literature. Turnover was overwhelmingly the most significant challenge. Student mobility and district boundary changes, new curricular adoptions for mathematics and literacy, new student assessments, new data tracking system, new bell times, and measures to cut transportation costs also impacted the effort. In spite of these challenges, we also experienced important successes. Centering relationships in our work has been an essential part of the success we experienced and is itself a success. At every phase, we remained at the table together, working to build relationships and sharing visions, goals, and practices. This resulted in important changes with stronger systems for tracking and using student data in educational decision making, health and wellness services now available to all students, and a universal social-emotional curriculum now in place. Family engagement and parent leadership are now essential dimensions of the school, with parents of color playing important roles to amplify their own and other parents’ voices. Preservice teachers learned about full-service community schools in situ. We highlight the rich and complex narrative that emerged, which is not simply one of challenge but also one of resilience and strength. Carefully documenting this initiative can contribute to guiding implementation and refinement of a full-service community school model.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 12, 2019, p. 1-40
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22922, Date Accessed: 9/20/2021 5:14:34 PM

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About the Author
  • Leslie Herrenkohl
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    LESLIE RUPERT HERRENKOHL is professor of educational studies at the University of Michigan. She is a developmental psychologist and learning scientist who studies how people learn. Her scholarship uses a holistic, sociocultural approach to examining how people learn concepts, develop practices, and transform their participation in activities that matter to them. She considers how social and emotional dimensions intersect with intellectual and academic perspectives in learning sciences research. As a designer of learning environments, Dr. Herrenkohl partners with practitioners to create equitable learning opportunities that are conceptually rich, personally meaningful, and culturally relevant and sustaining. Her funded studies and publications focus on learning environments inside and outside of school settings, with a particular focus on science learning. She has written for and presented to a wide variety of audiences, including students, school professionals, youth development practitioners, researchers, and policy makers.
  • Kate Napolitan
    The Evergreen State College
    E-mail Author
    KATE NAPOLITAN is a member of the faculty at The Evergreen State College in the MiT program. Her research interests include community teaching, community-based teacher education, democratic education, and literacy. Her recent publications include an online commentary with Michael Bowman entitled “We’ve Been Here Before: Our Need for Historical Mentors” (Teachers College Record, 2018) and a book chapter entitled “Community Teaching as Agency” in an edited volume (2019).
  • Todd Herrenkohl
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    TODD I. HERRENKOHL is Professor and Marion Elizabeth Blue Professor of Children and Families at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. His scholarship focuses on the correlates and consequences of child maltreatment, risk and resiliency, and positive youth development. His funded studies and publications examine health-risk behaviors in children exposed to adversity, protective factors that buffer against early risk exposure, and prevention. An international scholar, Dr. Herrenkohl works with policy makers, school and child welfare professionals, and community partners to increase the visibility, application, and sustainability of evidence-based programs and practices in prevention, social emotional learning, and trauma-responsive care. He has published extensively on school-based models of prevention, public health, and youth empowerment. He has also written about strategies to transform systems to improve child outcomes and is particularly interested in applying a public health framework to the prevention of child maltreatment.
  • Elham Kazemi
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    ELHAM KAZEMI is professor of mathematics education at the University of Washington. She designs and studies learning experiences for elementary mathematics teachers that enable them to create joyful and thriving learning environments. Understanding children’s mathematical thinking and their classroom experiences is central to her work with teachers and leaders. She studies how strong professional communities develop and are sustained in ways that support meaningful learning opportunities for teachers and students, especially in schools that serve communities of color. This work is informed by equity-oriented research on organizational learning, children’s mathematical thinking, and classroom discourse.
  • Logan McAuley
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    LOGAN MCAULEY is a doctoral candidate in educational psychology at the University of Washington. She received a specialist in education (Ed.S.) degree in school psychology from the University of Washington in 2014 and is a certified school psychologist. During her graduate studies, Logan’s work focused on the implementation and evaluation of social and emotional learning programs and practices in order to foster children’s social and emotional development in the school setting, and the evaluation and treatment of developmental disabilities in the clinical setting. Logan completed her predoctoral clinical internship at the University of Washington Autism Center and Center on Human Development and Disabilities. Currently, she conducts educational evaluations and provides counseling services as a school psychologist in the Edmonds School District in Edmonds, Washington.
  • David Phelps
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    DAVID PHELPS is a doctoral candidate in the learning sciences at the University of Washington. His research, design-work, and teaching focus on the authentic inquiry practices of both young children and interorganizational partnerships.
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