Schools and Colleges Celebrate, Explore Successful Cooperation

By Sheppard Ranbom — March 28, 1984 10 min read
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School officials met with college leaders here this month to celebrate successful partnership programs, discuss ways of removing barriers to collaboration, and seek approaches that will help stabilize support for their efforts.

The conference, sponsored by the American Association for Higher Education, marked the first time that a major higher-education organization has devoted its annual meeting to a discussion of relationships with the nation’s schools. The gathering was prepared with the cooperation of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Collaborative initiatives are burgeoning, participants said. They cited national projects and state and local efforts that include the development of summer schools for gifted and talented or academically deficient students; teacher institutes; advanced-placement programs that give students college credit for college-level work completed in high school; college follow-up activities that show schools how their graduates are doing; programs to identify and encourage talented minority students and women for careers in mathematics, science, and engineering; and curriculum planning and articulation efforts.

“There are hundreds of new programs” that have emerged, and many of them go “beyond the shallow theme of togetherness,” said Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Long-Range Interests

According to E. Michael Thron, associate vice-chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, the growth of collaborative initiatives is “being fueled in part by committed leaders such as Mr. Boyer of Carnegie and A. Bartlett Giamatti [president] of Yale; by growing support from foundations; by the added impetus provided by the school-reform movement; and by demographic statistics that indicate that if colleges don’t bring more minority and disadvantaged students into the mainstream, they will have trouble filling their classrooms in 15 years.’'

At his university as at others, Mr. Thron said, efforts to work with schools are the result of enlightened self-interest. “We are interested in serving the community and encouraging all kinds of growth, not merely the growth of [full-time equivalent] enrollments,” Mr. Thron said.

‘High-Water’ Mark

“Much of the concern about high schools--their lack of consensus regarding goals, their weak academic curriculum, the difficulties of their teachers and administrators, their need for cooperation with other institutions, the growing significance of state action, the concommitant need for equity and excellence--applies to post-secondary institutions as well,” said Patricia Albjerg Graham, dean of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. “We in higher education may well wish to attend to these issues currently being debated at the high-school level before the glare of public attention turns to us.”

“This meeting is a high-water mark in the movement for school-college collaboration,” said William Pierce, executive director of the ccsso, which, with the financial support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has established a three-year, $650,000 project to help states encourage collaboration between schools and colleges. Last September, the organization awarded $2,000 planning grants to 39 states; in January, it provided 14 grants of up to $30,000 each to state departments of education to implement or institutionalize school-college partnership programs.

“It was no small risk to ask the membership to discuss linkages with schools,” Mr. Pierce said of the higher-education group’s initiative. “The meeting comes at a time when people recognize that the education system is in need of reform and that no single part of society is responsible. Successful change demands work of governors, legislators, colleges, and schools.”

Past Efforts One-Sided

Previous relationships between schools and colleges have been confused and one-sided, according to Mr. Boyer.

“High schools are constantly trying to catch up with what the colleges are thinking,” he said, but higher education in the past 20 years “lost its clear sense of purpose” and, simultaneously, its commitment to work with schools. Moreover, he said, collaborative projects launched during the 1960’s and early 1970’s were too “paternalistic.” Distinguished professors left their plans for education “like a child at the doorstep” of the schools, he said.

“We in the universities have less hubris, a consequence of some of our failures to improve schools ... during the 1960’s and early 1970’s,” said Ms. Graham of Harvard. “We know now that the issues are much more complicated than we originally thought, and that simplistic solutions--or even complicated ones devised in our libraries and studies--require substantial modification in the arena of practice,” she said.

Expanding Programs

For the most part, school and college leaders attending the conference avoided criticizing each other for past failures and described instead the lessons they have learned from their recent efforts and their plans to expand such efforts.

The Urban University/Urban School Collaborative, launched in 1980 by the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, has received support from the Exxon Education Foundation and the Ford Foundation to invite an additional 10 to 12 cities into the network, according to Nevin C. Brown, assistant director of the office of special programs/urban affairs at the association.

The program has provided seed money and staff expertise to develop model programs in Birmingham, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Oakland, and Tampa.

“Although the project has taken a different focus in each participating city, project activities have flowed from a shared set of assumptions,” Mr. Brown said. The programs are designed to “rely heavily on direct collaboration between university chief executive officers and urban school superintendents.”

“The County Medical Society Model” project, designed to establish local societies linking teachers and college faculty members, will be expanded to include those in other disciplines besides foreign languages and literature “before the end of the year,” according to the project’s director, Claire Gaudiani, professor of Romance languages at the University of Pennsylvania.

The program, patterned after county medical and legal societies, has received more than $500,000 in support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Exxon Education Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. Today, more than 75 groups of college and school teachers in 36 states meet once a month to review research literature and discuss important topics in the field. The more than 2,000 teachers involved in the program represent more than 70 colleges and 300 public schools and school districts, according to Ms. Gaudiani.

The College Board’s Project EQuality, which last year set forth specific competencies expected of college-bound students in six academic areas, includes a network of 13 collaborative programs around the nation that will be expanded to include six additional sites, according to Adrienne Y. Bailey, vice-president for academic affairs for the College Board. The program provides small start-up grants to encourage school-college collaboration to address the twin goals of the project--promoting excellence in secondary schools and providing an opportunity for postsecondary education for all students, according to Ms. Bailey.

Successful Programs

According to Martha G. Butt, vice-president of the Northwest Area Foundation, many of the best projects are designed to have great potential for “spin-off.” Collaborative projects designed to improve instruction or curriculum in one discipline can easily be expanded to involve other disciplines, and projects geared toward articulation between secondary schools and colleges can be extended downward to link secondary and elementary schools, Ms. Butt said.

The foundation, which serves an eight-state region consisting of Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington, last month funded 14 grants totaling $150,000. It has been supporting school-college projects since 1980.

“What we have learned from project directors,” Ms. Butt said, is that “the best projects have clear goals and focus on a specific problem.”

Measurable Results

According to Alexander Tobin, director of mathematics education for the Philadelphia public schools and chairman of prime (a project for recruiting minorities into engineering), any program designed to increase attainment of minority and disadvantaged students in a specific area must begin with identification in the early grades and must follow students through their last years of college. But the key element in motivating students, parents, teachers, and college officials to support the program is demonstrating measurable results of success.

Under the prime program, minority students who show proficiency in mathematics are identified at the end of the 6th grade and placed in special classes throughout their school years. Following the 8th grade, students are invited to participate in four-week summer activities until they complete high school. prime involves the cooperation of 36 secondary schools in Philadelphia and in Camden, N.J.; 41 local businesses; 8 colleges and universities; 6 professional and engineering groups; and parent groups.

Over the past 10 years, the project has helped prepare 1,200 college graduates, Mr. Tobin reported. During that period, undergraduate minority enrollment in engineering at participating colleges tripled, he said. In one engineering school, 90 percent of students were graduates of the prime program.

Reward Systems

Many conference speakers concurred that academe’s reward system must be altered to recognize service activities. Ernest A. Lynton, Commonwealth Professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, suggested that, faced with an “information explosion” and a period of innovation and rapid change, both the organization and the reward system of the university must shift to emphasize the activities of “demonstrators” and “consultants” who disseminate and interpret information as much as they do the work of scholar-researchers who create that information.

But because higher education generally values expertise over service, those who wish to encourage collaboration “must utilize existing mechanisms and rewards” that the college or university recognizes today, countered Paul J. Hamill, assistant provost of faculty services at the University of Charleston in South Carolina.

Colleges and universities can encourage faculty involvement in school partnerships by linking participation in programs with professional development, he said, and by requiring that each department undertake collaborative efforts, which “gives legitimacy to faculty [collaborative] efforts as service to the department as well as the community.”

For their part, schools can better reward teachers for participation by allowing them more release time for activities and giving them inservice and college credit for participation in activities on campus, speakers said.

Ms. Graham of Harvard criticized both secondary schools and colleges for continuing a reward structure that places “greater prestige on working with good students, rather than working effectively with a range of students.”

“From high-school teaching on,” she said, “we have believed that we were working with a select population who had mastered the previous material. In the past, many of them had, but such is not true today, and if we on faculties and administrations only value the work of our colleagues who work with the gifted, we will miss a fundamental calling.”

Such an attitudinal change would help inner-city students in particular move to a point where they can consider college as a possibility, said Ruth B. Love, superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools. “Most students in the inner city have no idea that colleges mean them,” she said.

Continuing Support

If collaborative efforts are to be successful and last for some time, adequate funding must be secured from a variety of sources, conference participants agreed.

“Collaborative projects cannot rely solely on foundation support. It is wonderful to stand on one leg to begin with, but if you don’t have another leg, you won’t go anywhere,” said Robert A. Finnell, president of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (Project mesa).

“Twenty years ago, nothing stayed. We need to develop ways to sustain programs, generating funds for the long term and the short term,” said Arthur Levine, president of Bradford College.

Colleges and schools, Mr. Levine said, can secure considerable support by looking to their local communities and businesses and by “integrating collaborative programs into the main line of what colleges and schools do.”

A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 1984 edition of Education Week as Schools and Colleges Celebrate, Explore Successful Cooperation

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