‘Joining Forces’

By Deborah L. Cohen — March 15, 1989 29 min read

Twenty years ago, Melanie Barron, then a young teacher of junior-high-school science in New York City, first encountered the kind of crisis in a pupil’s life that her training as an educator had not prepared her for.

The pupil, who approached her one day between classes, said he was having a lot of trouble with his father and “started to tell me he was thinking about suicide,” recalls Ms. Barron, who is now a project director with the Education Development Center in Newton, Mass. “Kids were teasing us in the hall, and I realized I had nowhere to go to talk to him.”

“I was frightened for him; I wanted to respond,” she says. “And I was struck by the fact that I was unprepared to counsel him.”

Fortunately, she says, she was able to call on contacts she had made through her prior work as a lab technician and her involvement in a science-instruction program she had initiated at the New York University Medical Center. She went to a phone in the principal’s office and “got the boy a referral to a psychiatrist right away.”

But the shock of the incident left its mark, Ms. Barron says. She eventually found a way to help colleagues in a similar position, launching a program that brought a social-services team into Boston’s Madison Park High School. The effort became the model for a citywide “student human-services collaborative.”

Seeking ‘the Brass Ring':Coherent Aid for Young

By chance, Ms. Barron was better equipped than many teachers to respond to the distraught student. Such dilemmas, however, are now commonplace in the professional lives of teachers nationwide, as they try to cope on a case-by-case basis with the growing legions of pupils whose personal circumstances impede their ability to learn and the schools’ ability to educate them.

The stresses on children have become stresses on the educational system. And6that phenomenon is propelling one of the most unusual and urgent domestic-policy discussions in America.

The discussion, which includes major national organizations, state and federal policymakers, and an array of social-services providers, educators, and analysts, centers on the degree to which those who provide schooling can coordinate their efforts with those who provide human services.

Achieving a closer working relationship between the sectors would require, advocates say, an unprecedented re-weaving of two vastly different bureaucratic webs. But that goal, they argue, is critical to providing the intensive aid that the nation’s most troubled children need.

The approach would integrate educational, social, and health services for children and would involve their families, neighborhoods, and larger communities. It would replace a mode of service that the author Lisbeth B. Schorr calls “the grudging provision of isolated slivers of help” with one that pools the resources of public and private agencies, schools, and communities.

“Integrated services offer the benefits of comprehensive, continuous, and coherent attention to a whole child’s needs,” says Theodore E. Lobman, vice president of the Stuart Foundations. “That’s the brass ring.”

‘Everyone Has a Story’

At the same time, advocates say, the human-services field is fragmented, understaffed, and ill equipped to meet the growing demand for health and other social services for children and young adults.

Professionals in both sectors are “overworked and frustrated by not being able to meet needs,” says Janet E. Levy, director of “Joining Forces"--a project of the National Association of State Boards of Education that encourages schools to form linkages with social-welfare agencies.

“Everyone has a story about the frustration of dealing with a kid they wanted to help but couldn’t, because they didn’t deal with that aspect of a child’s life,” adds Ms. Levy, who notes that top education and social-welfare administrators participating in a conference jointly sponsored by nasbe and the Johnson Foundation last spring began to discuss ways to link and reinforce their services.

Reflecting the growing sense of urgency, education groups from the Council of Chief State School Officers to the Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education have called the coordination of children’s services a top national priority.

The first-year evaluation of the Joining Forces project reports that nearly every state has initiated some level of interagency collaboration, and that localities across the nation have launched pilot projects to foster collaboration on issues ranging from child abuse to child care. (See box on page 15.)

But many of the best examples are limited in scope, inadequately documented, and have “touched relatively few of the people who need significant help to succeed,” the report states.

To have a lasting impact, Ms. Levy says, “the various systems must fundamentally change both the way they operate and the way they relate to one another.”

Interviews, policy statements, conference presentations, and documents compiled from a wide variety of sources for this report suggest, however, that key questions remain about how such efforts should proceed, what their focus should be, and where schools best fit into the picture. But one major point of agreement is that the momentum for collaboration is growing.

“There is no doubt that the movement is off the ground,” Mr. Lobman says. “No one denies that kids’ needs are more complicated than the agencies we’ve created to serve them; what needs to be worked out are the legislative mandates that make it easier for these agencies to work together.”

A ‘New Attitude’

“There is a new attitude among educators,” observes Michael W. Kirst, professor of education at Stanford University. It differs from the philosophy prevalent when the federal Chapter 1 program began financing remedial instruction for disadvantaged pupils 20 years ago.

Educators then “seemed to think they could handle these problems if they were just properly funded,” Mr. Kirst recalls. “There is now a realization that schools can’t solve all the problems that kids with multiple needs have.”

Educators are acutely aware, for example, “that if kids come to school in ill health, under great stress, or hungry, it interferes with Continued on Following Page Continued from Preceding Page

them taking in everything schools have to offer,” adds Cynthia G. Brown, director of the Council of Chief State School Officers’ rescource center on educational equity.

“I cannot close my eyes to someone who is hungry and say, ‘It’s not my job to feed them, it’s just my job to teach them,”’ says Kenneth W. Haskins, a former lecturer at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and former co-director of its Principals’ Center. He has set forth a vision of the school as a “settlement house” for a range of community services.

Ms. Schorr, a lecturer in social medicine and health policy at the Harvard Medical School and the author of Within Our Reach: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage, a 1988 study of successful interventions in the lives of disadvantaged children, has argued that the economic consequences of “giving up” on large numbers of disadvantaged and disabled students are much greater now than earlier in the century.

Increasingly sophisticated technology and a plummeting demand for unskilled labor have raised the stakes, Ms. Schorr says, “to a point where every citizen needs to be well educated.”

At the same time, she says, school reform, “at least at the beginning, totally ignored young people the schools had given up on.”

“The school-reform movement has not focused on support services--it has focused on academics,” adds Joan First, executive di of the National Coalition of Advocates for Students.

But the pressure on schools to raise student-achievement levels has had the unintended effect of changing that focus, suggests Mr. Kirst. ''There is more willingness to collaborate,” he says, “in part because schools are being held responsible for results and they realize that just changing school structures is not enough for some kids.”

Schools have come to understand, says Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, “that they must be part of collaborative partnerships with a wide range of community agencies.”

‘Moment of Opportunity’

The current climate also provides a “moment of opportunity” for collaboration, notes the nasbe study, because both the education and social-services sectors are eyeing reforms that measure success based on ''desired outcomes.”

Efforts to reform the welfare system, for example, are focusing on education and training as the levers to lift individuals out of dependency--a strategy that underscores the need for more cohesion among agencies, according to nasbe.

Its officials note that the key aim of the Joining Forces project is to link education, welfare, and child-welfare services to help families and schools support children’s development and reduce the dropout rate.

Typically, “welfare administrators have assumed that schools would provide the best and most successful strategies in helping children ... move out of dependency and become self-sufficient adults--and educators have assumed that the welfare sys6tem ... would provide adequate support to families so that kids could come to school ready to learn,” says Stephen B. Heintz, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Income Maintenance.

“We’ve learned that neither assumption is safe,” he added, “and that the two systems must be linked more fundamentally if we are to achieve our goals.”

“We are going to get a strong indication of how this is working” under the new federal welfare-reform bill, which calls for education services for teen parents, notes Robert Palaich, senior policy analyst for the Education Commission of the States.

Other developments spurring the interest in collaboration include:

The establishment of school-based health clinics;

The success of early-childhood programs such as Head Start and the Perry Preschool Project, and parenting programs in Minnesota and Missouri that combine education, health, and social services;

Passage of p.l. 99-457, the 1986 law that mandates collaboration among agencies to coordinate education, health, and social services for handicapped infants and toddlers;

Collaboration between the education and health sectors to stem the spread of acquired-immune-deficiency syndrome (aids).

In a ‘Strategic Position':Schools as Hub?

The concept of schools turning to social workers for help is not new, notes Isadora Hare, staff director for the National Association of Social Workers’ commission on education.

Schools began hiring “visiting teachers” in the early 1900’s to ease the transition for the era’s large influxes of immigrant children, she says, and there are now an estimated 12,000 school social workers. But the development of the profession has been “uneven,” she adds, and while it is well established in some states, it is underrepresented in others.

With the current emphasis on serving at-risk children, however, Ms. Hare points to a “definite trend toward the expansion of school social-work services.

“School social workers are in a strategic position to make interagency collaboration work,” she says, by ensuring that the process of referring students for services “actually happens and takes hold.”

Other policymakers have begun to elaborate on that idea, forwarding the notion that schools should be not only involved in activities with other agencies but at the hub of these collaborative efforts.

“The public school in New York City, during my time at least, will become the most important institution in ensuring and guaranteeing that there’s a place of safety and development for young people and young families,” asserts Schools Chancellor Richard R. Green.

“For the last 20 years, we have been told that we cannot operate in place of parents,” Mr. Green says, but “the public schools of our urban centers today and tomorrow have no choice.”

In communities “where education is not well understood or supported,” adds John C. Rivera, a community organizer hired to work with Harlem 6th graders promised a college education under Eugene Lang’s “I Have a Dream” program, “schools need to fill the gap.”

‘Every Child, Every Day’

Proponents of that view note that no other agency comes in contact with or is as well equipped to serve all children as schools.

“The school has become the only agency which sees basically every child, every day,” says Allen Shedlin Jr., executive director of the Elementary School Center, a New York City organization now supporting pilot projects that advance the notion of the school as “the locus of advocacy for all children.”

A recent paper prepared by the center that has been circulating among chief state school officers and governors argues that schools should not be expected to provide every type of social service. But it says they should shoulder “responsibility for mobilizing available resources and generating new ones as needed.”

The school “is the strategic, sensible, and appropriate institution, working together with families and the community, to act as ombudsman, broker, and advocate on behalf of all children,” according to Mr. Shedlin.

Another argument for focusing services on schools is that social agencies are less accessible. If children “have to get from the school to somewhere else, you can’t guarantee that they will get there,” notes Laura A. Grandin, project director for the California Department of Public Instruction’s coalition for children.

“The in-school model works very effectively because you can capture the kids right there,” says Alvin Lubov, principal of the Frederick Douglass Middle School in Chicago. “It’s a safe harbor,” argues Mr. Lubov, whose school offers counseling and other services under a program administered by Youth Guidance, a Chicago nonprofit agency.

One reason such programs are so efficient from the perspective of social-service providers is that “there’s no down time,” notes Nancy J. Johnstone, executive director of Youth Guidance. “In a school, when you walk in a door you begin delivering services.”

Accountability, Policy Focus

Robert C. Scott Jr., chairman of the South Carolina Board of Education, points out that schools have “a track record in working with children"--and could lose autonomy if other agencies take the lead role.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t have cooperation,” in providing services, Mr. Scott says, “but if you contract it or farm it out, you lose control over it.”

Mr. Kirst also maintains that schools are “the most accountable agencies” in tracking children’s progress. “No other public or private agency keeps as good data on who the kids are, what they’re getting, and how good the outcomes are,” he says.

One of the greatest benefits of basing collaborative ventures in schools, observers say, is that they can exert a positive influence over school policies.

“Sometimes the problem is not the child but the school program,” Ms. Barron says. “If Continued on Page 10 Continued from Page 8

the school is missing the boat, team members from an intervention program may begin to delicately, subtlely get involved in improving the programs of the school.”

For example, school-based counselorsouth Guidance, convinced that a particular school’s suspension policy was counterproductive to the goal of keeping troubled young people in school, helped officials to set up an alternative program, notes Ms. Johnstone.

Ms. Barron cites another example in which such outside counselors served on a school committee eyeing changes in the way English was taught to immigrant students.

Traditions in Conflict:'Fair Amount of Suspicion’

But that kind of collegiality is struggling for definition amid professional traditions that neither recognize nor foster it, observers point out.

Educators and those in other children’s professions “basically are trained in different parts of universities and socialized in different networks,” Mr. Kirst notes. “They rarely meet and have contact with each other.”

“The different disciplines and professions who work with children not only rarely talk to one another in a productive manner,” adds Mr. Shedlin, “but they have developed their own restrictive vocabularies that have effectively prevented them from doing so.”

“When I went through teacher training, no one said anything to me about getting to know a social worker,” recalls Roberta Knowlton, a coordinator of the federal “Youth 2000" program for the New Jersey Department of Human Services who has credentials in both education and social work. “And never once when I was in social-work school did anyone mention getting to know the education sector.”

That schism, begun in academe, is ulti6mately reflected in professional attitudes.

“People become so involved in operating their own programs that they sometimes don’t take a close enough look at what other agencies are doing with the same kids,” notes Ms. Brown of the ccsso.

‘Policy of Separatism’

Traditional school practices have also worked against collaborative approaches, educators acknowledge.

“Schools themselves are very closed institutions,” observes Mr. Haskins of Harvard. “They really don’t collaborate well with anyone.”

“Teachers in our present situation are not prepared to work with other teachers,” much less professionals from other fields, says Commissioner of Education Harold Raynolds Jr. of Massachusetts. “Right now, the model is still 25 kids with a teacher in a self-contained classroom.”

Schools, too, have “fought very hard to be independent, creating separate institutional structures to shield themselves” from local politics, Mr. Kirst notes. And having “pursued a policy of separatism for many years,” he adds, they “are not well positioned to build alliances.”

When Youth Guidance began placing counselors in schools in 1969, they “encountered a fair amount of suspicion,” according to Ms. Johnstone. Educators accustomed to short-lived initiatives “were very concerned that we wouldn’t stay,” she says.

Obstructive Rules, Job Worries

Specific school regulations may also discourage such intervention. For example, Ms. Schorr says, when Dr. James P. Comer, Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at Yale University, set about his now well-known effort to restructure programs for disadvantaged children in New Haven schools, he hit up against a regulation that barred different types of support personnel from being in the building at the same time.

In addition, school guidance counselors and other personnel may feel threatened by the presence of professionals from other agencies with different approaches, Ms. Barron suggests. “They worry about job security,” she says.

For their part, outsiders who provide services in schools must adapt to new ground rules and attitudes, points out Ms. Barron, citing “the shock on the face of a social worker who realizes school starts at 7:30 in the morning.”

Such workers “don’t have the control over that environment that we would have in our own offices,” adds Ms. Johnstone, who says they must cope with a lack of work space and “a lot of disruptions.”

Observers also cite the difficulties that schools and children’s agencies face when they attempt to merge separate sources of funds and to harmonize conflicting regulations and professional practices.

“Everyone wants their own forms, their own budget cycles, their own reimbursement formulas and rules of confidentiality,” says Ms. Barron.

Question: How To GetVaried Providers To ‘Dance’

Complicating the logistical and human-relations difficulties at the school level is a larger problem: The fragmentation of governmental human-services systems.

Encompassing federal, state, and local bureaucracies, as well as innumerable private organizations, social services affecting the young are provided by literally thousands of agencies, which handle programs ranging from drug counseling to foster care, from housing to food stamps.

“One of the serious problems we have in the human services is that we’ve specialized all the functions,” Mr. Lobman observes.

“Simply put,” adds Mr. Heintz, “our mission has long been getting checks, in the right amount, to the right people at the right time.”

California, for example, has 160 programs serving children and youth that are overseen by 37 different entities located in seven different state departments, according to Ms. Grandin.

Such fragmentation is “mirrored in Washington,” Mr. Kirst says. And child-welfare advocacy groups and education organizations that monitor the federal government’s diffuse child-related programs function “in two different orbits.”

“There isn’t really a children’s network in Washington that tries to make policy,” Mr. Kirst says.

‘A Teenage Dance’

Milbrey Wallin McLaughlin, an associate professor of education at Stanford University who has studied the collaboration issue, contends that children’s services are fragmented largely because “nobody is playing the role of parent in the system.”

Middle-class parents typically “look at the educational, health, and recreational needs of the child and sort of put it all together,” she explains. “No one does that for disadvantaged populations.”

“Reconceiving what it means to support the development of young people,” Ms. McLaughlin maintains, will require overhauling or creating new children’s agencies.

“There almost has to be a new group,” she says, that comes together to think about children’s needs and community resources “in ways not driven by previous kinds of commitments and bureaucratic arrangements.”

“The barriers can’t be overcome by reorganizations on charts or by periodic meetings” of task forces or commissions, adds Mr. Kirst.

“You can’t lower the walls between systems by knocking a hole here and knocking a hole there; you have to lower the whole wall,” says Sidney Gardner, former director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “New Futures” initiative, which is providing $50 million to support collaborative efforts on behalf of disadvantaged young people in five cities.

“I describe it as a teenage dance with the girls on one side and the boys on the other side, each too scared to make the first move,” Ms. Barron says.

‘They Found They Shared Values’

Some educators and social workers have begun to cross the dance floor, however, in the belief that the obstacles to working together are surmountable.

In his work at the Elementary School Center, Mr. Shedlin says, he has discovered “almost a desperation among the different professions to talk to each other. Each profession had kind of assumed it was the other profession that didn’t want to talk to them.”

And it has become clear through the Joining Forces project, Ms. Levy says, that “we have given tangible focus to something people wanted to do anyway.”

“When we first talked about this, our hostility was a foot thick,” recalls Jule Sugarman, secretary of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Mr. Sugarman and Superintendent of Public Instruction Frank B. Brouillet signed a pact in 1986 that has spurred state and local collaboration on early-childhood and at-risk- youth services.

Initially, says Mr. Sugarman, there was tension between the social workers, who felt teachers were interested primarily in higher pay and smaller classes, and the teachers, who saw social workers as “give away” people who were ineffective politically. But the more the two groups talked, he says, the more “they found they shared values.”

When collaborative efforts began three years ago in Oregon, where the governor has called on local communities to develop a children’s agenda, “a lot of people didn’t like it,” says Superintendent of Public Instruction Verne A. Duncan. “At first, it felt like another intrusion.”

While educators and human-services workers kept their distance at initial meetings, he says, “it got to the point where you couldn’t tell the difference” between them.

In many cases, Ms. Barron notes, one success story is enough to change a skeptic’s attitude. She tells, for example, of an “old guard” principal who at first merely “tolerated” a social-services team placed in his school.

“His attitude fundamentally changed,"inued on Following Page Continued from Preceding Page

she says, after female students confided to social workers that a male teacher had sexually harrassed them. The teacher was fired following a school investigation.

The principal “now requires his teaching staff to meet on a monthly basis with the team from the agencies,” Ms. Barron relates, “because he was so struck by how important their work was.”

Lorraine M. Aronson, Connecticut’s deputy education commissioner, adds that bureaucratic obstacles--such as conflicting confidentiality rules dictating what information providers can share--should not be seen as a “major impediment.”

“If parents really think services to their child are improving,” she suggests, “they’ll waive those requirements.”

National Efforts Emerging

Among the national groups promoting collaboration is the Council of Chief State School Officers, which has called for state “guarantees” ensuring a high-quality education for children deemed at risk of school failure. The state chiefs urge a “team effort” by state agencies, businesses, communities, schools, and parents.

Despite controversial aspects of the 1987 proposal--which called for individual learning plans similar to those provided for handicapped youngsters--it “was tremendously important from a symbolic point of view,” Ms. Levy says.

The ccsso has awarded grants to 11 state education agencies to promote interagency collaboration in serving at-risk students, and has focused most recently on promoting coordination in early-childhood-education and parenting programs.

At the federal level, signs of changing attitudes include bills passed in recent years calling for interagency planning in serving the handicapped and homeless, and in providing services under the Chapter 1 program.

The Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the National Alliance of Business, launched the Youth 2000 campaign in 1986 to focus attention on services for 16- to 19-year-olds. And a flurry of bills expected to be considered in the 101st Congress would involve both schools and community agencies in providing early-childhood education and child care.

‘Knowing We Can SucceedIs the Next Big Frontier’

Despite such signs of widening interest in the collaborative-services model, some practitioners in education and related fields say that they remain unconvinced that it should bedeveloped by--or based in--schools.

“There are some kids for whom school just isn’t that comfortable an institution,” contends Harold A. Richmond, director of the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago. “They need a place to succeed or relate that’s not school.”

“I would rather see community institutions offer much more holistic kinds of support services” he says, than to “load up a variety of institutions” in a school setting.

Gary Natriello, associate professor of sociology and education at Columbia Teachers’ College, says he fears that school districts may rush into collaboration “because it’s the thing to do--it looks like you’re being responsive to problems.”

Without proper forethought and planning, he adds, “I’m frightened that, like many educational innovations, it will enjoy a brief period of popularity"--but remain viable in “no more than a handful of districts ... and in no more than a cursory way.”

The concept of schools forming alliances with other agencies is “a better idea than to lay on schools the autonomous and total responsibility for doing everything for kids,” says Chester E. Finn Jr., director of the Educational Excellence Network. And care must be taken, he argues, to ensure that such efforts do not impede schools’ primary mission.

“A great problem in dealing with disadvantaged kids,” Mr. Finn says, “is the discovery that because a kid needs 27 different kinds of help, the school should provide 26--when, in general, it is only good at providing 6 or 7--or maybe even 2 or 3.”

“Schools have a monumental task,” Ms. Johnstone of Youth Guidance acknowledges, simply in “developing relevant and workable education programs for the incredibly diverse populations they now have to serve.’'

‘Solid Program’ First

Jerome Harris, superintendent of the Atlanta public schools, asserts that coordination among agencies “won’t make any difference” if schools lack “a solid educational program.”

The Atlanta schools have, in Mr. Harris’s words, “more cooperation with private industry, business, and other agencies than any school system in the country.” Yet he insists that such efforts should be regarded as supplementary--and not as “a solution to any problem” at-risk students face.

“Anything private people can do to help should be appreciated and ought to be done,” he says. But “it ought to be the icing rather than the cake.”

Attaching too much significance to such collaboration, he asserts, “in some way removes us as educators from having any kind of real sense of accountability for our lack of success in doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

A glaring deficiency in attempts to bring social services into the schools thus far, notes Mr. Palaich of the Education Commission of the States, is that few entail “efforts to help kids have better experiences academically in school.” In collaborative programs surveyed for a recent e.c.s. study, he says, “teachers tended to be out of the loop.”

If collaboration does not “penetrate the classroom, and if teachers aren’t involved in it, the same negative messages” will thwart efforts to aid at-risk children, he says.

‘We Deal With Families’

Human-services professionals, on the other hand, fear that school-based programs may not properly recognize and include parents.

“I’d hate to see us develop on a wide scale programs that act as though families don’t exist,” Ms. Levy says.

And some educators worry that collaborative models could inadvertently undermine parents’ role in supporting children’s education and development.

“One should try for a situation in which parents can play this role and not discourage or displace them,” Mr. Finn suggests.

Collaborative efforts at the Central Park East Secondary School in New York City are focused primarily on working more closely with parents to address children’s school problems, says Susan J. Bolitzer, family-school coordinator for the program.

“Our thing is not how to deal with agencies--we deal with families,’' she says. “Most families living in the community know what’s out there and know better than we do what kinds of agencies” suit their needs.

Meetings between teachers, families, and a mediator such as Ms. Bolitzer may involve personnel from other agencies “if it is relevant,” she says. But “if we’re having a problem with a kid in school, we don’t want to send them somewhere else to fix it.”

Even under ideal circumstances, some warn that integrated services cannot compensate for inadequate parental support or deteriorating communities. “We need to have realistic expectations about how much any public system can accomplish,” Mr. Lobman says.

Others skeptical of collaboration say not enough time has been spent defining clear goals--such as who to serve and what services to offer.

While “people seem to assume that more bodies of adults in schools are good things,” Mr. Natriello says, “not enough time is being spent on what the adults are going to do, how they’re going to be trained, and whether their presence is being made meaningful to the school program.”

Even when the will to reach out to other agencies is there, observers note, financial support may not be.

“Schools’ capacity to provide noninstructional services was never very powerful,” Mr. Lobman observes. “Whatever counseling there was in the 60’s and 70’s has virtually disappeared” as a result of budget cutbacks.

“If you walk into any school and talk about an issue like collaboration, the first thing a teacher would say is, ‘We just do not have access to the funds to be able to do that,”’ notes Esther Rodriguez, a policy analyst with the Education Commission of the States. Agencies often underestimate what it costs “to bring people together” in travel, staff time, training, telephoning, and other expenses, she notes.

Such resources are critical, Ms. Schorr argues, to offer the “first-class services” needed to mount successful collaboratives. “Halfway measures and piecemeal solutions are going to continue to result in failure,” she asserts.

Tracking Progress

But there is not much data yet that could demonstrate the benefits of interagency collaboration--and the lack may hamper efforts to secure funding, observers warn.

“There is no solid evidence that different collaborative projects are really having a significant impact” on learning, Mr. Natriello contends.

Raymond G. Eberhard, executive director of the National Dropout Prevention Network and director of adult education for the California education department, says most attempts to unify youth services have not included effective strategies to monitor results.

“You hear a lot of anecdotal things,” Mr. Eberhard says. “But whether the dropout rate is going down or attendance and student achievement are going up--you don’t hear a lot about.”

Although some agencies launch projects and later add a research function, the failure to begin tracking progress early on, he contends, “is why nobody can stand up anyplace in this country with great emphasis and conviction and say, ‘We know this works.”’

States are doing “a lot of exciting things,” says the California department’s Ms. Grandin, but many of their efforts are too new to show results. “We’re developing the technology to respond to the need as we go along,” she says.

Ms. Schorr cautions, however, that the push for “accountability” can result in “unreasonable efforts to shape outcomes.” To test the collaborative concept, she argues, policymakers must be willing to look at a wide range of measures.

“We have to be willing to think more about what information is meaningful and less about what is simply countable,” she says.

In addition to data on school outcomes, Ms. Levy adds, policymakers should weigh factors such as whether welfare dependency is being reduced.

No ‘Overnight’ Accomplishments

Positive outcomes are difficult to document, Ms. Schorr concedes, because they may not manifest themselves for several years and “can’t always and directly be tied” to the agency that made the initial investment.

“Everyone has to recognize that things are not going to be accomplished overnight,” Ms. Rodriguez emphasizes.

One untapped source of data on the impact of collaboration is the school-based health-clinic movement, suggests Mr. Lobman of the Stuart Foundations.

The clinics, which bring together medical, educational, and mental-health professionals, offer “an excellent example of the dilemmas in integrated services,” he says.

While they have been studied from the perspective of access to health services and impact on sexual behavior, Mr. Lobman notes, school-based clinics could play a more pivotal role in testing “the concept of integrated services.”

Ms. Schorr--who chronicles in Within Our Reach some promising results of collaborative ventures in programs from prenatal care to adolescent pregnancy--says documenting their success can help to erase skepticism and provide grist for interagency collaboration on a larger scale.

“Knowing we can succeed in one school or on a small scale means we can begin to address how whole systems can be modified,” Ms. Schorr says. “That will be the next frontier in efforts to improve outcomes of disadvantaged kids.”

Staff Writer Debra Viadero contributed to this report.

A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 1989 edition of Education Week as ‘Joining Forces’