Building and Maintaining Strong K-16 Partnerships Across State, Regional and Local Levels
Authors: Sheila Jones, Nancy Vandergrift

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1. Context of the Work
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The Partnership for Reform in Science and Mathematics (PRISM) is an NSF-funded comprehensive MSP grant. The PRISM project has a dual purpose of having both an implementation component and a research component with an overarching mission to increase science and mathematics achievement for all P-12 students in order to improve their readiness for post-secondary education and careers by enhancing teacher quality, raising expectation for all stakeholders, and closing the achievement gaps through the collaboration of P-16 partners. All grants in the MSP program are required to incorporate into their plans five key features, one of them being "Partnership-Driven." The emphasis on using partnerships as a vehicle for educational reform necessitated the creation of well-defined PRISM partnerships to achieve PRISM's mission. PRISM knew from prior partnership efforts in Georgia that goals could be achieved using partnerships, and decided to study a flexible partnership model to allow for the unique contextual and demographical aspects of its partners. PRISM partnerships were allowed to change and grow as the work evolved. Thus, the partnership was utilized as a management strategy as well as a reform movement.

Research shows that some organizations believe that partnerships add value and create positive outcomes for all partners (Scherer 2006). Based on prior work from pre-existing networks established through the statewide Georgia P-16 Council, local/regional P-16 councils and other partnership activities, partners were chosen in a deliberate and purposeful manner to bring together core educational organizations and institutions to work toward common goals and ensure accountability. These core partners formed a PRISM state leadership team, whose purpose was not only to oversee implementation of the project, but to lead by example through the expansion of the roles of K-12 educators and higher education faculty. Through early efforts to work together, one of the first lessons learned was that K-16 partnerships must learn from one another. In the four PRISM regions, core partners created regional partnerships called Regional Coordinating Committees (RCC) to design and implement the work. The state leadership team worked closely with the four regional partnerships to promote reform and achieve the PRISM goals.