School-community collaboration occurs when groups or agencies come together to establish an educative community. The educative community is composed of a multitude of educating entities such as school, home, places of worship, the media, museums, libraries, community agencies, and businesses (Drew, 2004). Everyone in the community is accountable for the quality of education.
The Community Collaboration Manual (The National Assembly, 1991) lists seven characteristics of successful collaborations: shared vision, skilled leadership, process orientation, cultural diversity, membership-driven agenda, multiple sector representatives, and accountability. Some common barriers to collaboration are differences in philosophies, organizational cultures, and operating practices (National Assembly, 2000).
School-Community Collaboration Is Needed
Schools do not exist in isolation and they cannot go it alone. To keep students in school their social, economic, and family needs, as well as their academic needs must be met. They need the support and help of the whole community. The often heard statement, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is very true. Volunteers and funding are two major ways that communities support their schools. Some of the initiatives that involve partnering with the community are School-to-Work Programs, drug abuse prevention programs, after-school centers, and parental involvement programs. Coordinating community collaborations to avoid duplication and keeping them focused on a common goal is a challenge.
Impact of School-Community Collaboration
Research on the impact of community collaboration is ongoing. Two major programs that have been studied are full-service community-schools and the Annie E. Casey Foundation New Futures initiative. Some of the positive results found at full-service community-schools are improved reading and math performance, better attendance rates, a decrease in suspension rates and a decrease in the dropout rate (Schargel & Smink, 2001, p. 201).
The New Futures initiative did show some interim steps that may lead to improved outcomes: increased awareness about the problems of at-risk youth; initiating a dialogue among leaders and community representatives; development of rich school-based information systems; and demonstrated how to build strong relationship between public and private sectors by combining leadership and money (Schargel & Smink, 2001, p. 202).
Drew, S. (2004). The power of school-community collaboration in dropout prevention. In F. P. Schargel & J. Smink (Eds), Helping students graduate: A strategic approach to dropout prevention (pp. 65-77). Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.
The National Assembly. (2000). 21st Century Community Learning Centers collaborative survey. Washington, DC: National Assembly National Collaboration for Youth.
The National Assembly of National Voluntary Health and Social Welfare Organizations. (1991). The community collaboration manual. Washington, DC: Author.
Schargel, F. P., & Smink, J. (2001). Strategies to Help Solve Our School Dropout Problem. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.