Participants in a school-college partnership in South Carolina learned early on that even collaborations that sound like win-win situations can benefit from serious self-evaluation.
Columbia College in Columbia, S.C., teamed up with two local schools and several public service agencies in 1993 to form the Schools as the Center of the Community Project.
The partnership put social workers, nurses, and mental health counselors at the two schools, taking some of the burden off teachers and letting them do what they do best--teach. At the same time, education majors at the college got a chance to work in the schools.
But the collaborators realized something was wrong as teachers began to complain that they didn't understand the project's goals and were confused about their own role in it.
To iron out the problem, the college created a for-credit course that was offered to the schools' teachers for free. The two schools gave the teachers time off to take the class in which participants designed implementation plans for future SCCP programs. No longer confused about the effort's goals, the teachers suddenly found themselves in charge of planning the project.
The program is one of 16 partnerships examined in a new report from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, "Learning to Collaborate: Lessons from School-College Partnerships in the Excellence in Education Program." The Miami-based foundation released the report last week at a Washington conference of educators participating in collaborations.
Like any relationship, school-college collaborations have their good times and their bad times, A. Richardson Love, the foundation's director of education programs, said in an interview. The important thing is learning from the mistakes.
"We're trying to make the point that collaborations are not just a one-time thing," Mr. Love said.
For Columbia College, its association with local schools has meant a stronger bond with the community surrounding its campus. James L. Solomon, who directs the project, even said in an interview the college has seen fewer break-ins and less vandalism since it got under way.
"By becoming involved in the community in a meaningful way, the college has established a relationship with the local children that causes them to value the college," he said.
Copies of "Learning to Collaborate" are free from the Knight Foundation, One Biscayne Tower, Suite 3800, 2 South Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Fla. 33131-1803, or by e-mail from email@example.com.
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