Read through each section to learn more about the ‘Prepare’ phase and be sure to check out the resources linked below in the Getting Started section.
The Case for Collaboration
Research has shown that collaboration in schools leads to positive outcomes, including increased teacher retention and improved student achievement, even in high poverty school environments. Creating education partnerships between the district and school administration, local education association, and other stakeholders serves as a powerful stimulant for school-based collaboration, which in turn yields the outcomes all stakeholders want. In short, this is a winning strategy for all involved.
For decades now, educators have said that what they want most is increased professional voice and authority over decisions that impact them in the classroom. Educators are closest to the students and know their needs best, so decisions about teaching and learning are strongest when they include the voices of educators. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) helps school systems attain the benefits of collaboration by codifying the importance of education partnerships. It requires that educators and their professional associations be included in the design and implementation of state and local education plans, as well as school improvement plans. The lessons and best practices presented here will help educators, administrators, parents, and communities attain the benefits of collaboration.
Collaboration begins with education stakeholders deciding that they will work together to achieve a common goal: better results for their students. Stakeholders can contribute to the collaboration process in many ways, as discussed in the Call to Action. However, the most important step is for them to agree to participate and put forth a good faith effort to put students first and value the views of others.
At the school level, stakeholders include the principal, other school administrative staff, educators and support professionals, students, parents, and the community. Association representatives can play a primary role in organizing educators and elevating their voices and views. At the district level, stakeholders include the school boards, district administration, the local association, parents, and community groups. Most local stakeholder groups have national and state counterparts that can provide invaluable support by spreading the word, encouraging new districts to join the movement, convening collaborating teams to share insights, and identifying best practices in educator collaboration.
High quality partnerships are characterized by shared decision-making, collaboration, and mutual respect amongst stakeholders.
Discover Shared Goals
Once two or more stakeholders have agreed to work together for student success, the next step is to decide what issue(s) to address first. Start with an area of widespread concern, where stakeholders have knowledge about the options for solutions. Needs assessments can help in cases where you have already determined the broad student-centered topic that you hope to address with your partnership but don’t know where within that topic to begin. They can also help if you have partners that are ready to commit to the process but have varying viewpoints on which topic to address, or if there are multiple topics that need attention and you need to understand which ones take priority.
Commit to Collaborate
So, how do education stakeholders come together to collaborate? It starts with a commitment from the administration and association leaders to work together to advance student learning at the state, district and/or school levels. While every partnership is unique, organizations engaged in successful collaborative processes demonstrate predictable attributes and attitudes toward one another. They accept each other’s relevance and value within the system, and in the best-case scenarios, leaders of each stakeholder group make a pact not to let each other fail. They remain equally committed to participating in the partnership, and see each other as essential parts of a whole with a shared purpose. They seek out each other’s perspective, paying close attention to areas of disagreement so that they can be worked out, and they maintain the drive to gain consensus. They construct consistent communication avenues, and consult one another before decisions are made, always seeking to maximize the number of decisions that can be made collectively.
Learn as much as you can about the Case for Collaboration and share with others. Determine who your partners will be in your local context, and ask them to collaborate with you on student-centered issues.
Questions to consider:
- What about the Case for Collaboration is most compelling to you, to your members, and to the other stakeholders in your system? How will you share this information with everyone?
- What are your existing relationships with the other education stakeholders in your system, and how can you leverage those relationships toward the creation of a partnership that will foster collaboration at all levels?
- What student-centered issues do the stakeholders in your system care about? What data are available to help you hone in on shared goals?
- What principles and guidelines will hold you and your partners accountable to in your partnership? What commitments are you willing to make to one another to ensure the partnership’s success? Here’s an example from ABC Unified School District to help you.