Collaboration in Action: Joining Forces with Peers to Create Positive Impact

By Lay, Jim | Techniques, February 2009 | Go to article overview

Collaboration in Action: Joining Forces with Peers to Create Positive Impact


Lay, Jim, Techniques


The need for collaboration is a message frequently advocated by education thought leaders as they articulate the essential requirements for developing and sustaining our educational systems. The message goes something like this: It is critical that organizations engage in collaboration among individuals and groups who share a common vision in order for those individuals and groups to achieve that vision. But it is when the concept of collaboration moves from a good idea to action that real impact occurs. It was with that action-oriented intent that Robert Sommers, CEO of Butler Technology (Butler Tech) and Career Development Schools, envisioned a network group in early 2004 with core activities of information, process and data sharing. Sommers foresaw great potential in this collaborative approach to accelerate the concurrent development of member organizations. He commissioned research to identify like-minded schools and school leaders to convene at the December 2004 ACTE Annual Convention to pursue this concept. This core group of pioneering schools formed the Career-Tech Baldrige Network (CTBN) agreeing to embark on this successful collaboration that continues to make a meaningful, positive impact on the students and communities served by its member schools.

The Network

What began as an experiment in learning and growing together back in 2004 has become an essential organizational development tool for 10 dynamic career-technical schools from throughout the U.S. These schools - Butler Tech in Fairfield Township, Ohio; Central Education Center in Newnan, Georgia; Clark County Skills Center in Vancouver, Washington; Francis Tuttle Technology Center and Metro Technology Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Lake County Technology Campus in Grayslake, Illinois; Moore Norman Technology Center in Norman, Oklahoma; Upper Valley Joint Vocational School in Piqua, Ohio; Tri County Technology Center in Bartlesville, Oklahoma; and Auburn Career Center in Concord Township, Ohio - have lifted the concept of collaborative learning and development from a possibility with potential to a part of the routine of improving the educational experience they provide and the educational performance results their students achieve.

Schools participating in the network are diverse in size, in location and in their approach to the way they operate. They each have unique challenges and circumstances. But despite these inherent differences, they share a common bond relying on the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award criteria as a development framework as well as a common set of organizational and individual characteristics and commitments that cement this collaboration together. First and these schools demonstrate they arc in student performance and are committed to doing what is right and required for student success. They have found themselves seeking comparison with not just their local or state peers, but also nationally in order to truly understand their performance effectiveness. Through this comparison process, they seek to propel themselves to the highest possible level of performance success in a context beyond their local environment.

Sharing Information

Member schools are willing to share openly what they are doing and how they are doing it, and they expect the same from their peers. They recognize that there is something valuable to learn not only from those who do things in a similar fashion, but also from those who take an entirely different approach to the same challenge or the delivery of the same type of program. Participating schools are committed to a multi-level involvement with entire leadership teams and additional team members actively involved in the networking and benchmarking processes. Teachers, administrators and superintendents/CEOs meet together and share their unique perspectives while also learning from and sharing with their peers. With a founding mission to "accelerate development and improve performance of the nation's excellencedriven career-technical schools through real-time, proactive data and knowledge sharing," the network members do not wish to establish bylaws, elect officers or build levels of organizational administration; they share a bias to act rather than a routine of meeting to discuss what they might be able to do. …

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