Time Well Spent: How Can Schools Make the Most of Community Partnerships?

Guest post by Jennifer Peck

Teamwork is at the very heart of what we do at the Partnership for Children and Youth. When schools, expanded learning providers, and community partners work in a team, kids win.

Certainly all the literature around expanded learning stresses the importance of teamwork. But it’s one thing to see effective teamwork at a school site where there is often a single charismatic and committed leader who makes it a priority. It’s another to see teams function well at a broader system or school district level.TWS title

With our recent report, Time Well Spent, we sought to explore how school districts can support effective teamwork among school-day and expanded learning partners. Our home state of California is a great place to ask this question. Here, state funding has provided stable financial support for expanded learning for more than a decade and required a level of school-community teamwork in the process.

Through our research, we wanted to understand how school districts were partnering with community organizations and what insights their experiences could provide to school district leaders.

We found that for a district to truly make the most out of its investment in expanded learning time, it should:

  1. Build on its existing assets in order to create a broad-based expanded learning system and the infrastructure to support it.
  2. Set the vision that expanded learning is part of the core work of the district’s schools.
  3. Create and sustain authentic partnerships through shared planning and management.
  4. Be clear about the critical role school level leadership plays in creating and sustaining effective programs.
  5. Support the system’s capacity for continuous improvement.

Those strategies look different and are used in different ways across the state, but wherever we saw a district and its expanded learning programs working together like clockwork, all of these five elements were there.

Our research gave us concrete examples of how these strategies are being employed, and how some of the most successful districts have overcome some very common (and often perplexing) challenges and are aligning expanded learning with school-day practice. The development of this report will greatly inform our work in California, and we hope it will be equally as valuable to our colleagues across the state and the country.

The Partnership for Children and Youth is hosting a webinar on their Time Well Spent report on Wednesday, November 12th, 2:30pm ET (1:30pm CT, 12:30pm MT, 11:30am PT). The webinar will feature guests from several of the communities highlighted in the report. Register here.

Jennifer Peck is the Executive Director of the Partnership for Children and Youth.

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