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

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4. Results
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Partnership Rubric Results:

Partnerships at all levels of PRISM used the partnership rubric to create a snapshot of their current partnership status as well as to point out strengths and discern areas for improvement. A paper copy of the partnership rubric was typically passed out to each individual in the group. Participants rated their partnership on the indicators and then together tallied the results. The ensuing discussion was an integral part of the self-assessment, with participants sharing their ideas for growth and discussing dilemmas that were potential barriers for change. The initial use of the rubric brought out the need for revisions because the wording of some indicators was unclear. Subsequently, the rubric went through two major revisions. The results below represent one region's self-assessment using the partnership rubric.

Region 1:

  • 2005 Rating Summary: Most ratings were in the "Emerging" (6) and "Developing" (3) columns.

  • 2006 Rating Summary: Most ratings were in the "Developing" (5) and "Accomplished" (4) columns.

When shown the comparison ratings, members agreed that significant progress had been made for all indicators from 2005 to 2006. A discussion of progress followed, especially focused on two particular areas: "Change and Sustainability" and Responsibility and Accountability." This region's members felt that they had worked hard to establish partnerships and working relationships and that school/university collaborations would last. They also wondered what would happen when the funding ran out. Ideas for sustainability were generated, for instance members discussed the importance of showing school superintendents, principals, and school board members the benefits of PRISM programs to teacher effectiveness and school improvement.

Management Tools Results:

Partnership Driven Section of Management Tools (67 indicators measured)

Year 2 ratings: No Progress - 14.92% (10), In Progress - 68.66% (46), Met - 16.42% (11), Sustained - 0.0% (0)

Year 3 ratings: No Progress - 2.99% (2), In Progress - 53.73% (36), Met - 19.40% (13), Sustained - 23.88% (16)

Year 4 ratings: No Progress - 0.0% (0), In Progress - 32.84% (22), Met - 23.88% (16), Sustained - 43.28% (29)

The combined results show a substantial decrease each year in the "no-progress" rating with increases in the "sustained" rating. The partnership has been able to clearly define their roles and responsibilities in order to make hard decisions when needed. The partnership has been able to support the work of all PRISM partners sharing progress on PRISM goals periodically to the Georgia Department of Education and University System of Georgia, as well through regional and local entities. Partners continue to experiment with ways to redirect non-NSF resources towards PRISM efforts and goals.

Partnership Case Study Results:

The following briefly describes findings related to regional partnerships from the PRISM Evaluation Team case studies. Although some of the results may be true for most or all of the regions, different regions are highlighted to describe specific successes or challenges in building partnerships.

Using the Language of Partnerships: One of the most striking outcomes of conducting individual interviews and group discussions about PRISM partnerships in one region was the use of the language of collaboration. In almost every instance, PRISM participants used "we" to talk about decision-making, planning, implementing activities, and assessing progress. In the early years of PRISM partnership formation, it was common to hear participants use "they" in talking about others in the partnership. The use of "partnership language" and the growth of collegial interpersonal relationships are indicators of this region's healthy, successful partnership(s).

A Collaborative Mindset: This same region used specific definitions and examples of partnerships in their discussions with the evaluators. Participants described partnerships in a variety of ways, for example, cross-departmental for higher education faculty, university faculty and K-12 teachers, and K-16 educators with an informal educational organization. A network had been put into place to change the status quo of working in isolation to one of collaboration.

Strength Based on Common Goals: In another region, partnerships were found to be driven by common goals more than they were by individuals trying to meet their own goals. PRISM afforded this particular region the opportunity to come together as a leadership group with the authority to make decisions for improving science and mathematics student achievement. Key stakeholders defined the goals and planned the activities for the partnership. Activities were developed that met the current and critical needs of the teachers and faculty, not just "extra" work that was added onto already busy schedules. The efforts of the partnerships are resulting in changes in teaching and learning in both P-12 classrooms and in university classrooms.

Enhancing Content Knowledge through Changed Practice: In a third region, most participants stated that the single most important partnership established through PRISM was that of K-12 teachers and higher education faculty. PRISM brought together the support of its resources, the encouragement of its leaders, and a vision of regional collaboration, all of which helped to cultivate closer working relationships. The partnership grew as a result of the support, but it also deepened because of the importance of the PRISM goals. Learning communities became the primary vehicle for teacher professional learning. K-12 teachers stated that the greatest benefits of their partnerships with higher education faculty were collegial learning and their enhancement of content knowledge. There is evidence that K-16 collaborations are a more focused approach to professional learning. Preliminary results suggest that sustained involvement of higher education faculty with K-12 teachers in learning communities contributes to further understanding of teaching and learning.

Unique Organizational Structure: The fourth region struggled to form a cohesive core leadership team at the regional level, resulting in a fragmented vision of what PRISM could accomplish. Many challenges faced this region from the onset (e.g., many layers of bureaucracy, attending to competing goals in other large grants, reorganizing pre-existing projects into PRISM projects). These challenges influenced the unique organizational structure that evolved. Members of the regional leadership cultivated pre-existing partnerships and formed new ones as a means for accomplishing the work. Partnership categories identified by evaluators included: specific programs or support services with informal education partners, networking groups that promote shared resources, and interactive learning communities that are based on the exchange of information and expertise. One result was that partnerships represented differing levels of commitment and depth of involvement. However, individual PRISM participants interviewed for the evaluation report commented on the value of the work in which they were engaged.