The DeHavilland Blog

Monday, February 26, 2007

Survey speculation, part 1

In our recent survey report, I was careful to only address what I had found, and not speculate on the reasons behind the data. However, some of the results do raise questions, and since a blog is the perfect place for speculation I wanted to note them and take a stab at addressing them here.

Today’s topic: Why is the reported value of partnerships so low?

Nearly half of district and school officials participating in the survey stated that they received $25,000 or less in value from all their partnership efforts over the previous 12 month period; if you add in the next tier, we can state that 60.8% received $50,000 or less over that period.

If you look at the breakout by title – whether the respondent was at the district or school level – the results are even more interesting. I didn’t include this crosstab in the published results, since the wording of the question didn’t allow me to confidently determine whether respondents were speaking from a district or a school perspective. But I’ll share those results here; while I can’t say that these numbers are exactly right, the great difference between these breakouts and the composite numbers is worth noting.

  • General numbers: $25K or less=43.6%, $25-50K=17.2%
  • District administrators: $25K or less=32.7%, $25-50K=17.3%
  • Principals only: $25K or less=63.7%, $25-50K=17.6%

I was very surprised to see that nearly 2/3 of principals report receiving less than $25,000 per year from partnerships. After all, the vast majority of funds that a school receives are non-discretionary – by some estimates, principals have less than $50,000 in discretionary funds to work with out of a budget of millions. One would think that they’d do anything they could to attract additional funds they could work with.

Why are these values so low, when the benefits of partnerships should have people scrambling to bring in outside support? Some possible explanations:

  • Contributions are not being valued correctly. Only one of the four partner categories had an explicit dollar amount attached to it; the other three (volunteering, goods and services, and expertise) did not. It’s possible these contributions aren’t being listed correctly.
  • Contributions are not being recorded. More than 60% of respondents stated that they track information on partnership inputs (funds, volunteer hours, etc.) only sometimes, or not at all.
  • The principal isn’t aware of some partnerships and contributions. Of course they know when a company sponsors the scoreboard – but are they aware of how many hours volunteers log in each classroom?
  • The school has limited partnership development resources. While districts may have dedicated partnership staff and a communications department to handle outbound solicitations, schools rarely have these types of resources. Partner development is bundled in as one more item in a job description, one which can get crowded out given the demands on school personnel.
  • School personnel have limited experience in developing partnerships. Partnership development tends to be a trial by fire process – it’s something you pick up as you go, and it takes some time to learn how to recruit and build effective, longstanding partnerships that provide benefits to all parties.

Any or all of these could be an issue, and without further research (currently being planned) I can’t say with any certainty why partnerships are so limited in value. What I can say is that there’s tremendous potential for growth in this field, which would not only increase the resources available to schools, but would help schools integrate more fully into their communities.

Next up: exploring the differences between suburban, urban, and rural schools.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Community/School Partnerships: A National Report

As I mentioned last week, I've been working away on a new research project focused on community/school partnerships. Today I published the results of this effort in a report titled "Community/School Partnerships: A National Report." (PDF)

This report is the result of a collaboration between my firm, DeHavilland Associates, and the National School Foundation Association: they wanted to research school foundation issues, I wanted to explore community/school partnership issues, so we joined forces. We combined our questions into a single survey and pushed it out to superintendents, principals, and other district/school officials across the country.

From the nearly 800 responses, around two thirds of those (535) were actively involved in community/school partnerships, and it is those people whose voices are reflected in our report. (Note that NSFA may be publishing something on their responses in the near future; our report focuses exclusively on community/school partnerships.)

I'll be commenting on the survey over the next few days; The report offers analysis, but no commentary or speculation (much more appropriate for a blog). For now, I'll just share our key findings:

  • When asked to rank the importance of current partners to their efforts, respondents put individual businesses first, parent organizations second, and booster clubs third.
  • When asked to rank the partners with whom they’d most like to develop relationships, business coalitions came in first, followed by individual businesses and regional/national foundations.
  • Schools and districts are willing to invest time and talent to make partnerships successful, with top officials working collaboratively with partners to design partnerships and set outcomes. However, most have not established systematic procedures to recruit and monitor partnerships.
  • Businesses are listed most frequently by schools and districts as supporters (82.2%), with parent organizations mentioned nearly as often (76.1%).
  • The total value of partnerships over the previous 12 months was limited, with 43.6% reporting a value of $25,000 or less, and the vast majority (83.0%) listing the value at less than $200,000.
  • There were clear differences in the responses of suburban, urban, and rural schools and districts. Those in suburban areas note generally higher levels of support from community-based partners; those in urban areas receive greater support from institutional partners (nonprofits, foundations, and postsecondary institutions); and those in rural areas record below-average levels of support from every partner with the exception of booster clubs.
  • Rankings of current partners reinforced the importance of local support, with regional/national foundations and nonprofits appearing at the bottom of the list (10 and 12 respectively). However, these organizations are seen as attractive future partners, with regional/national foundations listed third and regional/national nonprofits listed sixth on the ranking of partners with whom respondents would most like to develop a relationship.

I'm very excited about this project: it brings new data to an important, but often overlooked, facet of K-12 education.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Radio silence

It's been several days since my last post, and likely a few more before my next one. The reason? DeHavilland Associates is about to unveil a significant new piece of research on the subject of community/school partnerships. It's taken quite a while to put this together (hence the lack of blogging), but I believe it will be well worth the effort.

Look for an announcement soon...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fill in the blank

Try your hand at this compare/contrast activity:

Share your answers in the comments section. Triple bonus points for answering this version of the question:

  • Reflecting dramatic changes in society, the public education system should ___________.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Interview with Toffler on education

This month's issue of Edutopia features an interview with Alvin Toffler, visionary author of Future Shock, on public education. Worth a read.

CEOs as public leaders

McKinsey came out last week with a survey of top executives regarding their interest and involvement with social causes titled “CEOs as public leaders.” It sheds some light on what motivates them and what they see as the incentives and barriers to public engagement.

There are studies that clearly show the advantages of corporate social engagement in areas such as employee morale, customer loyalty, and even stock performance. (See this report for details; free registration required). What’s surprising about the McKinsey survey is that most C-level executives report getting involved for personal, rather than professional, reasons. Other highlights from the survey:

  • Only 6% believe that most businesses play a leadership role in efforts to address social issues; 59% believe that companies play some role, but not a leadership role, and 35% believe that most companies play no role.
  • 44% believe that executives should play a leadership role, but only 14% state that they themselves play such a role. Only 6% state that executives should play no role, but 27% put themselves in this category.
  • Those who play no role or some role in addressing social issue believe that the primary motivation of those who do is business related (71%), and that they act as company representatives, not private citizens (65% to 35%). In contrast, those who do take leadership positions believe that the primary motivation of those who do is personal (65%), and that they do so as private citizens, not company representatives (61% to 39%).
  • Of those who do not take a leadership role, the three main barriers are time (50%), fear of negative publicity (44%), and company policy or culture that discourages employees from taking positions on public issues (34%).
  • Education is a key issue, albeit for personal issues and not for its impact on shareholder value. Education was #6 on the list of issues affecting shareholder value, but third on the list of issues of greatest importance personally.

This is an eye-opener – it’s too easy to look at community engagement as strictly a business strategy, and forget about the passion and compassion of the people leading the charge. Something to think about next time you see a company jumping into the fray.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Corporate reputation

Harris Interactive and The Wall Street Journal came out last week with the results of their 8th annual ranking of the world’s best and worst corporate reputations based on a survey conducted by Harris. (See here for the article “How Boss’ Deeds Buff a Firm’s Reputation” in the Journal.)First place went to Microsoft, an unthinkable achievement even five years ago, when the company was known more for its unfair business practices than for its social accomplishments. However, thanks to the philanthropic work of Bill Gates in education, health, and a number of other areas, the firm now boasts the greatest corporate reputation in the world. From the article:

"The involvement of Bill Gates and his wife in their charitable foundation has had a definite impact on Microsoft's reputation," says Enriqueta Lopez Ramos, a survey respondent and retired university professor in San Benito, Texas. "It's hard to separate Bill Gates's image from that of Microsoft; to me, they're one and the same."

While Microsoft and a handful of others (Johnson & Johnson, UPS, etc.) are held in high regard, the corporate world as a rule is not:

The corporate world's overall reputation remains dismal, with new scandals emerging, such as the improper dating of stock-option grants to business executives. About 69% of respondents graded corporate America's reputation as either "not good" or "terrible," just slightly lower than the 71% in 2005.

"At a time when being big is a bad thing, it is important that companies tell the world they care about more than just their stockholders," says Andria Lickfelt, a homemaker in Springdale, Ark., who gave Sears Holdings Corp. high marks for its sponsorship of the television program "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Sears "has taken a step up in my mind because every week you see a family's life changed on the show, and Sears is a part of that."

Given the many benefits afforded by a positive corporate reputation, and the fact that the aggregate reputation of businesses is so bad, it’s surprising that there’s not more of an investment in a hot-button issue like education. According to the US Chamber, businesses contribute $2.5 billion annually in goods and services to public education; compare this with the profit of $39.5billion announced by ExxonMobil for 2006 alone. Granted, it’s a record profit, but the fact remains that if businesses wanted to improve their reputations to reap the associated benefits, they have the means to do so.

And, while I’ve been mum about a company initiative, I’ll soon be able to provide evidence as to the warm reception businesses would receive by knocking on the schoolhouse doors. More to come soon on that point – but for now suffice it to say that partnering with education can provide a win for both sides, and based on reported investment levels and the interest recorded in such partnerships by schools, there’s certainly room to grow.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Benchmarking and best practices

This week's Education Week carries a commentary titled "Benchmarking: What it is, how it works, and why educators desperately need it." It's an excellent introduction to benchmarking and best practices - two foundational principles of successful organizations across sectors - for the education community, courtesy of the CEO of the American Productivity and Quality Center.