Partnership-Ready Schools: Building Systems and Mindsets for the Achievement Schools to Receive and Utilize Community Organizations as Partners in Student Success
CitationSanders, Ansel. 2015. Partnership-Ready Schools: Building Systems and Mindsets for the Achievement Schools to Receive and Utilize Community Organizations as Partners in Student Success. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractOver the last decade, the call for schools to leverage partnerships with community organizations as a means to provide services that will mitigate the effects of poverty in the pursuit of achieving ambitious academic outcomes has gained momentum. The Achievement Schools, a network of five neighborhood schools serving students in Memphis’ Frayser community, has prioritized the development of partnerships as a lever to turn around the academic performance of its schools by ensuring students’ nonacademic challenges are identified and met. In this Capstone, I describe my role in building a “Partnership Readiness Toolkit,” a framework and set of resources to guide schools in developing the capacity needed to better utilize partnerships with community organizations that provide critical nonacademic services and resources. Drawing upon research that focuses on the challenges facing school-community organization partnerships, examples of effective partnerships, and change management theory, I argue that for schools to fully utilize partnerships, they must first be ready for partnership by more tightly coupling certain aspects of their relationships with community organizations. This Capstone then describes the approaches I took to design, build support for, and apply the Partnership Readiness Toolkit to an important community partner. The analysis of my actions and results generates two key findings: 1) creating a vision and proof point that multiple constituencies find valuable, undergirded by strong relationships with the constituencies, yields the support necessary to successfully introduce and begin applying the Partnership Readiness Toolkit, and 2) a school operator with multiple priorities and an ambitious mission must focus relentlessly on readying its schools for partnership in order for partnerships to be successful. This Capstone will provide two instrumental contributions to the sector. First, this Capstone presents a case study of the successes and challenges of readying schools for partnership, which conveys a valuable set of insights for school operators, particularly those in “turnaround” situations serving low-income students. Second, the Capstone produces a Partnership Readiness Toolkit that will serve as a resource for current and aspiring school leaders seeking to utilize partners as a lever for school improvement and student success.
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