Academic journal article School Community Journal

Impact of Adopt-A-Classroom Partnerships between K-12 and University Faculty

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Impact of Adopt-A-Classroom Partnerships between K-12 and University Faculty

Article excerpt

Introduction

Historically, K-12 schools and higher education have operated independently of each other (Kirst, 2005; Thelin, 2011). American high schools were first designed to educate students for life skills, not prepare them for college. As high schools grew and the number of students attending increased following World War II, two tracks developed: one for students who would attend college and one for those who would not. Because college preparation was not the primary focus of high schools, the gap between K-12 and higher education has consistently widened, making the need for collaboration between systems greater than ever (Kirst, 2005). Given a recent nationwide push for implementing college and career readiness standards for K-12 schools, schools are looking to colleges and universities to augment teacher content knowledge. University faculty and staff can provide expertise in their focus areas as well as access to tangible resources through school-university partnerships.

History of the Program

In 2005, Education Renewal Zones were established in the state of Arkansas to promote collaboration between higher education and public schools. The Arkansas Department of Education currently funds six Education Renewal Zones throughout the state through a model that is unique to Arkansas. Education Renewal Zone directors are employees of their respective institutions who also work alongside the Arkansas Department of Education. Programs are created to provide the institution of higher education's resources to and address the needs of partner K-12 schools, as assessed through both formal and informal means (Arkansas Department of Education, n.d.).

The University of Arkansas Education Renewal Zone was awarded funds to begin an Education Renewal Zone in Summer 2012. Schools were nominated to participate in the Education Renewal Zone by school superintendents. Immediately upon the creation of the office, the newly hired Education Renewal Zone director conducted interviews with partner school superintendents and principals to assess needs and began brainstorming along with a 40-member advisory board about how the University of Arkansas might support the stated needs of school partners.

Upon coding the responses from these administrator interviews, a common theme emerged: the desire to have University of Arkansas faculty present in partner schools. Superintendents and principals asked the Education Renewal Zone to facilitate greater faculty involvement in their schools for a few stated reasons. First, they wanted to connect K-12 faculty to the content expertise of postsecondary faculty. A 2012 study found that knowledge about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) was growing rapidly among educators while teachers simultaneously expressed concern over not having deep enough content knowledge to implement the standards (ASCD, 2012). Anecdotes from interviews with Education Renewal Zone partner school principals and superintendents supported this finding. While CCSS requires teachers to teach less material for deeper student understanding, partner administrators indicated that educators could benefit from a more profound grasp of the content by collaborating with university faculty (Riddile, 2012).

Another reason for the desired partnership with postsecondary faculty was to influence students' perceptions toward college faculty and higher education in general. Partner school administrators hoped that providing a connection between their students and university faculty would contribute to greater college matriculation for students graduating from their districts. Additionally, partner school administrators expected that deeper connections between K-12 teachers and postsecondary faculty would result in collegiate educators having a greater appreciation for the challenges of being a K-12 teacher. Adopt-A-Classroom (AAC) was created by the Education Renewal Zone to address these purposes.

Literature Review

There is scant literature discussing partnerships between K-12 and higher education faculty, thus finding the appropriate body of literature with which to frame this project has proven to be a challenge. …

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