Community Partnership Report
A Research Review
Seattle Public Schools and The BERC Group partnered to disseminate surveys and conduct focus groups to identify ways to improve partnerships between schools and community organizations. This report summarizes findings from focus groups conducted with the Community of Thinkers, Teaching Artists, and Teachers and from the Community Organization and School Surveys.
Three focus groups were conducted at the Seattle Art Museum with three groups - Community of Thinkers, Teaching Artists, and Teachers. Researchers met with these groups to gain valuable perspectives about ways to enhance partnerships between schools and community organizations. We asked these groups to describe the role of the partnerships, the benefits of the partnerships, the characteristics of an ideal partnership, barriers to effective partnerships, and tools and or resources needed to enhance existing and new partnerships.
For each of these groups, the role of a school and community organization partnership improves access to programs, enhances and broadens student arts experiences, and increases exposure to arts. For the Community of Thinkers, these partnerships give schools what they cannot provide on their own. The community organizations have arts expertise that schools access through partnerships. Teaching Artists view the partnership as a bridge between community and school. The partnerships provide an inroad to schools for artists and community organizations. That inroad allows for enhanced exposure to arts and vital training for teachers. Teachers see the partnerships as a resource that can expand programs, increase engagement in arts, and fill instruction gaps. They provide exposure to different methods of expression and of viewing the world.
Groups described the outcomes and benefits of partnerships very differently. The variations in responses are perhaps indicative of the different group perspectives. The views of teachers and teaching arts were specific to their experiences in classrooms whereas perspectives shared by the Community of Thinkers were more general and distant from the classroom. The primary outcome or benefit cited by the Community of Thinkers is access to programs, and from this access the additional benefits include engagement, empowerment, and support for learning. Teaching Artists and Teachers believe outcomes and benefits need to be more clearly defined and shared between schools and community organizations. Discussions with these groups suggest there is no standardized assessment of outcomes and or goals. What is more, outcomes differ from school to school and even from grade to grade. These educators articulated a need for common assessment methods and ways to ensure programs positively influence performance in other content areas.
The three focus groups discussed similarly, the characteristics of an ideal partnership. Each group believes a partnership should be collaborative, should share common goals, and provide common planning time. Additionally, these partners should be long-term. Teaching Artists discussed the importance of communication, parent involvement, training, and stronger relationships with teachers. Communication, for teaching artists, helps identify partnership goals and fosters idea sharing with teachers and other providers. It also increases collaboration and informal training. Parent involvement will reinforce to students what is going on in the classroom. Teachers agree, and in addition, want partners to be curriculum-aware to ensure lessons integrate with other content areas and work towards school goals. THE BERC GROUP ii
Each group identified specific challenges that partnerships face with some alignment between Teaching Artists and Teachers. The Community of Thinkers focused on the role and value that arts play in school. According to some in this group, the school system is overly test-focused. Content areas that are testable receive priority, and others are pushed to the margins. Teachers then focus their efforts on those content areas. Where the Community of Thinkers discussions were about the value of art, Teaching Artists and Teachers focused on the challenges they confront in the classroom. Both groups need more information. Teaching Artists do not have access to information about the students to whom they are teaching nor do they learn of classroom norms before they enter the school. These data point would allow these artists to deliver better lessons and to accommodate all students. Teachers need more information about partners so that they can proactively incorporate partnerships into their lesson plans. In addition to information, both groups want more communication so that partners work towards common goals and expectations.Teaching Artists and Teachers were again aligned when discussing tools and resources that would enhance partnerships. They outlined specific tools and resources that directly impact their work. The tools and resources identified by the Community of Thinkers were less tangible, however.
Teaching Artists and Teachers want better ways to assess arts programs. Assessment and measurement tools can help demonstrate program efficacy and student learning. Partnership facilitation and coordination are other keys to success. Both groups would like to see a central contact point (employee) that matches and facilitates partnerships. Teachers also need tools to identify resources, share expectations, post feedback, and share success. Discussions among The Community of Thinkers, on the other hand, focused on the ways in which time, collaboration, and professional develop can improve school and community partnerships.
Surveys submitted by community organizations and school personnel provided insight about partnership services, satisfaction, connection points between school and community organizations, outcomes and benefits, partnership challenges, and tools needed to enhance partnerships. Seventyeight Community Organization and thirty-seven School surveys were submitted, respectively.
Overall, community organizations and school administrators are satisfied with their partnerships. For these groups, the mean satisfaction rating was 3.89 and 4.2 respectively (a score of 4 indicates a high level of satisfaction). While both groups rated their satisfaction close to or above a 4.0 on the survey, responses to questions about challenges, outcomes, partnership tools, assessment, and collaboration support findings from focus groups. Interestingly, community organizations satisfaction rating for SPS as a whole, was in the moderate range, indicating less satisfaction.
Survey results indicate that several challenges exist in developing effective partnerships, including alack of standardized outcomes, communication, funding, and time. Both groups indicated that commitment of time, access to space, support from the district office, agreement of the intent of partnerships, and a database of community organizations and services available to schools would enhance partnerships. Community organizations cited additional tools such access to student data and school schedules, curriculum maps, time to support planning, and more collaboration with teachers. Similarly, school personnel cited additional resources such as access to professional development and scheduling support. THE BERC GROUP
Survey responses confirm focus group discussions about assessment and collaboration. Assessment of programs and student learning, when it occurs, is sporadic and often unique to school or organization. Almost 40% of school personnel do not believe community organizations are assessing outcomes and some respondents are unaware of current assessments. In contrast, community organizations report that they are assessing because of internal requirements. There was little agreement on the outcomes being assessed among the two groups. Additionally, only 40% of school administrators believe community organizations collaborate with one another, and only 20% of community organization report collaborating with one another. Finally, there was only limited agreement in the information schools said they need to form a partnership and informationcommunity organizations report that they provide. Across all areas, there largest differences in responses include providing a designated contact person, information on length and structure of the program, and information on financial input and stability.
The BERC Group, Inc.
Duane B. Baker, Ed.D
Candace A. Gratama, Ed.D.
Gregory W. Toledo, M.A.
The BERC Group brings experience and an extensive knowledge base to any evaluation project.