Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tips to Build & Strengthen School-Community Partnerships

by Jessica Werner, Youth Development Executives of King County, Executive Director
(School's Out Washington serves as YDEKC's host agency) 
This piece was originally published in School's Out Washington's October Enewsletter: http://schoolsoutwashington.org/1639_181/ENersOctober2013.htm

An almost universally held goal for young people is that they transition to adulthood prepared to succeed in school, work and life. However, the way success is defined varies widely; and the ways we support youth success vary even more. By creating effective partnerships between the environments in which kids spend most of their time, we can work to ensure young people’s needs are met holistically – throughout the day and throughout the year.
Youth Development Executives of King County, in partnership with the Road Map Project, has been working to identify and describe those skills and dispositions that matter most to school success. The resulting list, Skills and Dispositions that Support Youth Success in School, brings together research and practical knowledge on what matters most to school success. By establishing shared language, this list can move us toward common measurement tools to both assess how young people are doing in these important areas, and to understand how our programs can contribute most effectively to skill development that can lead to success in school, work and life.
Shared language is one critical factor that can lead to improved partnerships between schools and community based organizations. Here’s a list of 10 more strategies to support strong school-community partnerships:
  1. Create a Shared Vision: Identify what parents, educators and youth development professionals within the school community want for the partnership and for the students it serves. Include young people's vision for what they want for themselves as well.
  2. Focus on Common Outcomes: Identify those shared outcomes that will help the community achieve the vision. School, community and family leadership comes together to identify student needs – this can and should range from academic needs, to social and emotional needs to ensuring children have nutritional food to eat.
  3. Clarify Responsibilities: With broad but aligned student outcomes to focus on, each partner can be clear on their role and how it contributes to the success of the shared goals.
  4. Align needs with services: make sure there is a structure in place to identify individual student needs. This may require a coordinator that serves as a “matchmaker” between students and community organizations or services.
  5. Seek out additional Partners: Are there needs identified that current partners do not have expertise in filling? Find partners that can fill the need.
  6. Communicate Continuously: Set up clear mechanisms for regular communication about progress on the goals, upcoming trainings, changes in student populations, etc.
  7. Share Professional Development: Ensure all partners are responsible for and/or invited to training. If partners are working on academic support, ensure they are up to speed on Common Core or any other changes in standards and curriculum.
  8. Ensure Quality Point of Service: Youth Development organizations have the Youth Program Quality Assessment (and soon to be released statewide Quality Standards); Schools have Teacher Quality frameworks (Danielson, 5-D, Marzano). Understand each other’s frameworks as there are many commonalities.
  9. Share Data: While FERPA law requires the safeguarding of student data, with parent permission, organizations can legally access academic data about the students they are serving. Explore mechanisms to share data to improve services to student.
  10. Share Some More: Share leadership. Share credit (for successes and for failures). Share resources. Share a meal. Share lessons learned. Share Responsibility.


  1. Thanks for the post, and I've been looking at some of the community school in Fort Myers, FL. And they have some really nice community schools there that are worth checking out.

  2. Hey there! I am looking for a community school in Fort Myers, FL for my son. He used to go to public school but I would rather him not. Please let me know if you have any recommendations. Thanks.