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More Than 50% of Districts Engage In Partnerships, New Study Finds

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More than 50 percent of the nation's school districts have partnerships with an array of parent, business, and civic groups, and most of those partner groups make improved academic performance a program objective, according to a study released last week.

The report by the National Association of Partnerships in Education said that 29.7 million students or 65 percent of the total student population-attend schools in districts with partnerships.

The survey's findings were based on the responses of 1,337 school districts chosen from rural, suburban, and urban districts nationwide. Of those, 738 said they had partnerships in the 1989-90 school year.

Unlike a 1989 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, the new study did not collect data from individual schools. The earlier report concluded that partnerships directly involved 24 percent of all public-school students.

According to the new study, partnerships are not, as sometimes believed, mere "feel good" programs with little academic relevance.

"This helps dispel the rumor that partnerships are largely feel-good activities," said Daniel W. Merenda, executive director of the partnership group, which was commissioned to do the study by the U.S. Education Department. "From the results of the survey, it's clear that this is building into a more and more substantive movement."

The study found that 31 percent of the partnerships surveyed primarily involved such direct student support as tutoring and mentoring, job training, career-awareness efforts, and student-recognition awards.

Thirty-three percent of the partnerships said they focused on curriculum and instruction programs, from guest lectures to field trips.

Fourteen percent concentrated on such professional-development efforts as staff recognition, training workshops, and conferences. And 22 percent said they were involved in district wide policy and program initiatives like dropout and substance-abuse prevention.

In rural and suburban districts, parent organizations accounted for 78 percent and 71 percent of the partnerships, respectively. Business and civic groups came next. In urban districts, however, parent groups came fifth, after small businesses, medium-size businesses, large corporations, and civic groups. --p.w.

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