Blog: The Educated Reporter

Public-Private Partnerships For School Improvement Efforts

Another initiative that’s building public-private partnerships is the Campaign For Grade-Level Reading, a collaborative effort of political, education, business and advocacy leaders to close the nation’s literacy gap. The nonpartisan campaign, which officially launches today with a conference in Denver, already has 124 communities and more than 1,800 organizations signed on.

The diversity of the municipal partners is worth noting, ranging from New York City (the nation’s largest school district) to Southern Pines, N.C., (population 11,586). Big or small, each partner has committed to improving three key areas for students: school readiness, attendance and access to summer learning.

For those goals to be accomplished, it’s going to take a committed effort by every sector of the community, Ron Fairchild, a senior consultant for the campaign, told the audience in New Orleans. “One of the dangers in conversations about accountability is we often frame it as a conversation about blame,” Fairchild said. “For too long, schools and teachers have borne the brunt of that.”

One example of successful public-private collaborations featured at the New Orleans forum is the STRIVE Partnership in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. Part of a national STRIVE network, the organization helps connect over 300 partners with schools so that students get the health and wellness support services they need to succeed academically and in life.

STRIVE’s primary objective is to get the various partners to abandon their individual agendas and agree to work toward a core set of outcomes. The result, said Leslie Maloney, senior vice president of the Carol and Ralph V. Hailie, Jr./US Bank Foundation and a member of the STRIVE Executive Committee, is what’s known as “collective impact.”

(The collective impact model is gaining traction nationally, and it was one of the panel discussions at EWA’s 65th National Seminar.)

STRIVE focuses on specific academic milestones including kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading, eighth-grade math skills, high school graduation, and postsecondary enrollment and completion.

At the forum, Maloney acknowledged that these are big goals and that “we’re going to be at this for a long time.”

Indeed, these sorts of investments require not only resources and human capital but also a fair amount of patience. So how long should it take for schools to improve? As Friedman, the president of TASC, so aptly noted in New Orleans, change takes time — and it probably can’t happen faster than “the speed of trust.”


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