What is a Partner in Education?
A partnership is a mutually supportive arrangement between a business and a school or school district in which the partners commit themselves to specific goals and activities intended to enhance educational opportunities to benefit students. Usually, this is in the form of a written agreement.
The mutually agreed upon goals and objectives are met by matching community resources to the identified needs of the school. In meeting these goals and objectives, school resources are also matched to the identified needs of a partner such as a business or community group. The focus of partnerships differs for each company and school, but all partnerships share a common commitment to improving education. Individual schools and their community partners develop activities at their own pace consistent with their needs and resources.
The partner may be a business, service organization, governmental agency, association, community group or institution of higher education. Using human and other resources, the partner has an impact on student achievement. As in any successful partnership, the resources, ideas and personnel from both sides are shared for mutual benefit.
Partnerships may involve business employees as tutors, mentors, coaches, or guest lecturers in the partner schools; a business may or may not make material or monetary contributions, as well, but people resources are the most important. In good partnerships, schools provide something to their partners in return. This may be something intangible, such as good will, or a tangible benefit, such as use of school facilities or academic resources.
Businesses may, at times, be willing to make a monetary donation, especially if it goes directly toward classroom activities and academics. However, fund raising is not the primary goal of the partnership program. Also, business people say that it is usually best not to ask for money initially, but to build a relationship with them first.
Successful partnerships have agreed-upon and well-defined goals and objectives; the business may wish, for example, to support the mathematics or science program of a school. Together, they develop activities that will implement their objectives. Once they are joined, partners should attempt to stay together for a long time. Though the partnership may change and evolve, commitment and continuity are essential for success, especially when dealing with students.
It is important for prospective partners in education to understand that partnerships do not live by good will alone; they take hard work and good management. Businesses and schools are structured differently and sometimes have problems communicating. Experience also shows that it is essential to have someone in the school in fairly regular contact with someone at the business to plan or iron out difficulties and keep channels open. Well-constructed partnerships between schools and business are good responses to concerns Americans feel about education. In a complex world, it is becoming clear that energy and resources from the wider community are needed if schools are to succeed in educating all youngsters (as they say, “It takes a village”).
Education needs to be everybody’s business. “A successful education system is one in which every stakeholder feels a sense of ownership and involvement in the system’s programs and services.” That is what successful business partnerships are about…involvement and teamwork.