Academic journal article School Community Journal

Traversing School–Community Partnerships Utilizing Cross-Boundary Leadership

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Traversing School–Community Partnerships Utilizing Cross-Boundary Leadership

Article excerpt

Introduction

Educational leaders recognize that community contexts, especially in urban districts, present extraordinary challenges for school effectiveness. For example, increasing numbers of students living at or below the poverty level (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014), fragmented or nonexistent families, and cultural issues such as violence, substance abuse, and unsafe neighborhoods make the challenges of educating students more complex than in generations past (Panasonic Foundation, 2007; Zacarian & Silverstone, 2015). These outof-school factors pervade in-school factors and hinder student performance, leaving the public school system with more responsibility than it has ever had or is now prepared to handle (Casto, 2016; Jean-Marie, Ruffin, & Burr, 2010). Legislation such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTT) emphasized the fact that public schools cannot dismiss the potential of any student due to challenging factors outside of the school's control. In fact, public schools face a responsibility to ameliorate racial and human inequities and to prepare all students for the workforce and/or college. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) legislation signed by President Obama in December 2015 provides states and districts with greater flexibility but also increased responsibility that "warrants the strong involvement of diverse communities and education experts" (Alliance for Education, n.d., para. 2). Our increasingly competitive global community reinforces the need for educational leaders and policymakers to find ways to support and enhance learning outcomes for all students. Community engagement is central to strengthening our educational system.

An understanding gaining widespread acceptance among educational leaders and policymakers is that schools cannot face these challenges in isolation (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Casto, 2016; Jean-Marie et al., 2010; Zacarian & Silverstone, 2015). Rather, schools must reach beyond the walls of the school and engage the larger community to bring about reform that truly meets student needs (Casto, 2016; Rhim, 2011). Research suggests that developing family-school-community partnerships to build capacity and enhance student success is essential (Brown, Muirhead, Redding, & Witherspoon, 2011; Jeynes, 2005, 2011; Rhim, 2011), especially in high poverty communities (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Pounder, Reitzug, & Young, 2002). In fact, Warren (2005) explained that the school-community connection is "so close that the fates of urban schools and communities are linked" (p. 133). Specifically, reform efforts must advance civic capacity to generate sustainable partnerships through the formation of networks and strategic alliances to strengthen schools, families, and communities (Jean-Marie et al., 2010). Casto (2016) explained that the most commonly noted motivations for partnership efforts in the literature include "school reform and improvement, support for families, community development, and the creation of a sense of place for students" (p. 141). Also important to note is that, in partnership efforts for school reform, instead of employing reactionary reform or implementing several decentralized efforts within a single building, schools must engage in comprehensive schoolwide reform that "works in tandem with communities to maximize their collective educational potential" (Jean-Marie et al., 2010, p. 15). Community involvement provides the benefits of advocacy for change, support for rigorous academics, and provision of external expertise (Brown et al., 2011; Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2010; Lewis & Henderson, 1997; Public Impact, 2007; Steiner & Brinson, 2011 as cited in Rhim, 2011).

Sustainable partnerships, however, are rare, with many initiatives starting and ending before partnership goals are fully accomplished. Blankstein and Noguera (2015) described this problem as "intellectually simple, but socially complex" (p. …

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