The DeHavilland Blog

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Which way forward?

Back in 2008, we held our first event – the Effective Education Partnerships Conference (EEPC). We only had a couple of hundred people there, but I still feel that it’s the most important thing we ever did in the partnership space. Why? Because the vast majority of discussions about partnerships seem to be single-voiced, with educators talking amongst themselves about how the business community needs to step up, or business people talking amongst themselves about how schools need to bring them to the table. But at EEPC, we had an even split of education and business voices, and they were talking with each other, not past each other. The conversations were amazing, and I like to think that everyone walked away with a better understanding that carried forward into their work in communities across the country.

Sadly, while we’ve seen that same spark on a few other occasions (like at last year’s TAPE/EEPC event), it hasn’t taken hold in a sustained, national conversation. Yes, there are pockets of real partnership success, like in career and technical education and the career academy movement. But beyond that, in terms of full-on community engagement, it’s just not happening – and as more and more partnership specialists lose their jobs due to budget cutbacks, we’re losing an experienced voice within the schools for collaboration.

Realistically, career academies and CTE may be the best place to focus our attentions: it’s easy to identify shared interests and substantive ways for partners and educators to join forces. But I still hold out hope for a broader movement. Academies and CTE are primarily high-school programs, after all, and students need help much earlier in their academic careers: more than half of fourth graders read below grade level (NAEP), a challenge from which many may never recover.

So what’s the answer? Are CTE and career academies the doorway to community/school collaboration, giving us an opening that we can expand on later? Or is there a different way forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts – email me if you have an idea or a plan to put on the table.