Successful School-Based Partnerships: What Does it Take?

Posted by William Penn Foundation on October 24, 2016

Schools and districts have long partnered with external organizations to deliver programming to students, both during and after the traditional school day. The potential benefits of such school-based partnerships for students can include improving social and academic outcomes, providing continuous services across multiple years, and exposing them to more diverse learning opportunities and to community resources. Likewise, schools can benefit from reinforcement of skills taught in classrooms, an improved school culture and reputation, and added resources and staff support. Partnerships also can increase parental engagement at a school, which can promote student success as measured by grades, attendance, attitudes toward school, motivation, and graduation rates.

Less is known, however, about whether and how school administrators and staff can coordinate partnership efforts in effective and efficient ways. Further, the optimal conditions for developing and maintaining partnerships whose goals align both with schools and districts and with partnering organizations and agencies are not fully understood.

This report describes findings from an evaluation that documented approaches, successes, and challenges of partnership coordination efforts in Philadelphia facilitated by the Community Partnerships VISTA Project of the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND) and by the United Communities’ Southeast Philadelphia Collaborative (SEPC) Partnership Coordination project. Each of these organizations implemented its own partnership coordination strategies in 19 School District of Philadelphia (SDP) schools during the 2014/15 school year. This evaluation tried to understand the roles and functions of partnership coordinators and the extent to which partnership coordination efforts promoted integrated activities and partner collaboration that aligned with a school’s needs and goals.

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