A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

School Reform and Student Diversity - September 1995

6. The Role of External Partners

As discussed in previous chapters, exemplary schools were undergoing substantial reform. One way that schools approached restructuring their organization or embraced new ways of teaching and learning was through accessing outside resources through external partnerships. Schools sought assistance from experts in the community, local institutions of higher education, and national organizations to capitalize on available resources. They sought the help of external partners as they developed curricula, employed new instructional strategies, and implemented organizational innovations. It is important to note that several of the exemplary schools developed and carried out their programs without the support of an external partner. There was, however, a pattern that schools facing the difficult challenge of providing mathematics and science instruction to their LEP students. The remainder of this chapter examines the ways in which the exemplary schools drew on external partners in support of the schools' vision and long-range educational plan. (For a description of partnership organizations, see Description of External Partners.)

Finding #6.1 Nature of Partnerships. While all relationships between external partners and staff at the exemplary schools were collaborative, dynamic, and interactive, the relationships varied in intensity and character. Partnerships ranged from those that leveraged comprehensive schoolwide change to those that focused on specific curriculum areas. Assistance from external partners usually took the form of intensive, long-term professional development and sometimes included in-class coaching.

The presence of an external partner had a major impact on the case study schools. External partners played an important role in the design and implementation of innovative language arts, science, and mathematics curriculum and instruction, as well as in the design and implementation of specific elements of school restructuring. External partners brought new ideas into the school, helped faculty identify and solve problems, and provided important support for faculty efforts to improve teaching and learning. The types of external partners varied significantly, but all had expertise in one or more areas--expertise that the school did not independently possess--and all shared a commitment to the improvement of teaching and learning. All of the external partners in case study schools provided professional development. Some offered assistance with the design of curriculum and implementation of instructional strategies. External partners also provided in-classroom coaching for teachers, support with the development of assessment systems, and assistance with site level decisionmaking processes. In a few cases, they furnished schools with costly equipment. Table I-6.1 shows the activities of external partners with study schools. As the table illustrates, external partners played a range of roles in case study schools.

Table I-6.1
Activities of External Partners

Curriculum and Instructional Strategies

In-Class Coaching

Site Decision Making and Reform


Accelerated Schools


Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow
(Linda Vista)


(Graham and Parks)




Susan Kovalik & Associates





San Francisco Project 2061
(Horace Mann)


UTEP--School of Education
(Del Norte)



UTEP--School of Education



The establishment of a close working relationship between school faculty and an external partner is a much more intensive and comprehensive school reform strategy than having teachers attend a one- or two-day training workshop off site. At several study schools, the external partner played an important role in helping faculty take stock of their school, assess what was needed, and implement new learning strategies. External partners brought human and financial resources into a school and reduced the isolation that teachers may have felt as they faced difficult challenges.

One of the most striking aspects of the partnerships observed in study schools was the long-term, well-developed relationship between teachers at study schools and the staff of external partners. Sometimes teachers became full members of a partner's team through years of collaborative work on a project. Teachers gave presentations at professional association meetings and consulted for the partner at other school sites. External partners often encouraged the teachers they were working with to extend the scope of their professional activities by writing articles for journals or speaking at conferences. The close relationships between external partners and teachers enriched the national dialogue on school reform by bringing together innovative practitioners who might otherwise have been working in isolation. Just as teachers reported that they learned many valuable skills from the external partner, external partners reported that they learned a great deal from the teachers in study schools.

Relationships between the school and the partner varied in intensity. As shown in Box I-6.1 on Hanshaw's relationship with Susan Kovalik & Associates, some external partners had very close working relationships with study schools. An intensive relationship also existed between Graham and Parks school and TERC.

Box I-6.1

Intensive Partnership Led Hanshaw Teachers to
New Way of Thinking about Teaching and Learning

Hanshaw Middle School in Modesto, California, relied on an intensive relationship with an external partner for the majority of their staff development and technical assistance. Hanshaw staff made a significant, long-term commitment to professional growth aimed at radically changing the teaching and learning process through their involvement with Susan Kovalik & Associates. Hanshaw was a new school and the partnership with Kovalik & Associates was established before it opened. Kovalik & Associates provided professional development and support for the teachers as they designed and implemented the new school's educational program. Teachers participated in intensive summer training and weekend retreats. Three-day intensive institutes were held at the start of every school year and one-day institutes were held each month throughout the year. Topics included creating a life skills curriculum, implementing "brain compatible learning," and developing thematic units.

Other partnerships were less intensive. In the cases of Horace Mann's partnership with San Francisco's Project 2061, Linda Vista's partnership with Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow and the National Alliance for Restructuring Education, and Del Norte and Wiggs' partnership with the School of Education at the University of Texas at El Paso, the external partners supported the schools by supplementing their programs in specific areas.

Finding #6.2 Organization and Funding of External Partners. External partners varied in their organization (public and private, for-profit and non-profit) and funding sources (private foundations and federal, state, and local monies). Most partnership organizations were funded for research and conceptual development activities before establishing relationships with schools.

Among the external partners in the study schools, no two organizations were identical. They shared a common commitment to the improvement of teaching and learning in America's schools and each made a long-term investment in working directly with schools. Table I-6.2 lists the external partners at the exemplary schools, their organization type, and funding sources.

Table I-6.2
External Partner Organization and Funding

School Name

External Partner


Funding Sources

Del Norte

University of Texas at El Paso, Professor of Mathematics and School of Education

Institute of higher education

Local/site-level funding


Accelerated Schools

Non-profit affiliated with Stanford University and Texas A& M University

Chevron Foundation; various other foundations

Linda Vista

Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow, National Alliance for Restructuring Education

Collaboration of for-profit and non-profit organizations

Apple Computer; National Science Foundation; New American Schools Development Corporation

Graham and Parks


Non-profit organization

National Science Foundation; U.S. Department of Education's Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs and Office of Educational Research and Improvement


Susan Kovalik & Associates

For-profit organization

Packard Foundation; local/site-level funding

Horace Mann

San Francisco Project 2061

American Association for the Advancement of Science, non-profit

National Science Foundation; private foundations; U.S. Department of Education; California Department of Education


University of Texas at El Paso, School of Education

Institute of higher education

National Science Foundation; private foundations

External partners were funded by federal, state, local, and private sources. Federal investment in improvements in science education were an important source of support for several external partners. As the table shows, four of the exemplary schools were involved with external partners that received funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF). TERC at Graham and Parks and Project 2061 at Horace Mann received National Science Foundation funding to develop innovative science curriculum and instructional approaches. The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) used NSF funding to develop its technology partnership with Wiggs Middle School. Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) also received NSF funds to support their partnership with Linda Vista. Graham and Parks' relationship with NSF-funded TERC, as described in Box I-6.2, provides an example of one of these partnerships.

Box I-6.2

Graham and Parks Teachers Implement "Inquiry-Based" Science through Partnership with Local Education Research Organization

At Graham and Parks, teachers in the Haitian Creole 5th through 8th grade bilingual class worked closely with TERC (Technical Education Research Corporation), a non-profit educational research firm located in Cambridge, Massachusetts in an effort funded by the National Science Foundation. These teachers have worked with TERC for three years to implement inquiry-based science instruction for LEP students. The TERC curriculum helped students learn scientific sense-making through instructional conversation. TERC provided participating teachers with stipends, conceptual guidance, special training in two-week summer institutes, in-classroom coaching, materials for science lessons, and twice monthly meetings that brought all participating teachers together. TERC videotaped science lessons as part of its research and instructional coaching and used the videos to review and refine instructional strategies.

Several of the external partnerships were local expressions of a much larger national reform enterprise. Project 2061 received extensive support from national foundations for its developmental phase, including the development of the science learning benchmarks for grades 2, 5, 8, 12. Accelerated Schools also received extensive foundation support to develop its conceptual base and to reach out to schools. Schools themselves pay for staff to attend Accelerated Schools workshops. ACOT is part of the New American Schools Development Corporation's National Alliance for Restructuring Education effort. Susan Kovalik and Associates received support from the Packard Foundation for developmental work on their approach to improving science teaching and learning. Kovalik efforts at Hanshaw were supported by Hanshaw site discretionary staff development funds from state and federal sources.

The work of an external partner with a study school can be likened to the tip of an iceberg visible from the surface of the water. In the case of external partners, the funding provided by federal sources and private foundations provided the unseen basis for the effort visible in the schools. Outside funding for research and development supported the efforts of the external partners before they began to work directly with schools. Funds needed to support the kind of R&D undertaken by external partners are outside the realm of the possible for individual schools and districts. The long-term developmental work of Project 2061 for example, or the conceptual framework of Accelerated Schools, or the adaptation of brain research to school settings of Kovalik, is only possible with long-term funding from the federal government and/or foundations.

Finding #6.3 Program Adaptation for LEP Students Most of the external partners' programs were not designed explicitly for LEP students. Well defined programs for LEP students and program implementation by staff trained in language acquisition were critical to the success of the external partner relationship as it benefited LEP students.

Efforts of many of the external partners were not designed specifically for LEP students. For example, Project 2061 and Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow are national efforts that do not have a particular focus on LEP students. However, the exemplary schools and external partners worked together to adapt each program to meet the needs of the school's LEP students.

The presence of a well-defined language development program for LEP students, as well as teachers trained in language acquisition, was critical to the implementation of the program of the external partner with LEP students. In order for schools to adapt the external partner program to their particular LEP students, the schools needed to have a solid framework into which the program could fit.

The technology program developed by the University of Texas at El Paso and implemented at Wiggs was designed for use in regular classrooms. At Wiggs, one of the twelve teachers implementing the technology program (see Box I-6.3) was part of a family for newcomer LEP students. Using the strategies she learned through the UTEP program and making adaptations for use with LEP students, she was able to effectively incorporate technology into her curriculum for newcomers.

Box I-6.3

Through A Partnership with UTEP, Wiggs Teachers Engage in
Innovative and Resourceful Professional Development

At Wiggs, twelve teachers worked with the School of Education at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to receive training in innovative instructional uses of computers. The twelve teachers were paired for a year with student teachers who were trained in instructional uses of technology, hardware, and a number of software applications. In effect, the student teachers served as in-class technology consultants. Throughout the year, the teachers and teacher interns trained together on applications. The twelve teachers involved in the UTEP collaborative each had three Macintosh LC III computers with CD-ROM drives, an LCD panel, a scanner, and two printers in their classrooms.

Finding #6.4 School Culture and the External Partner. Schoolwide restructuring, such as site-based management, joint planning time for teachers, and an inclusive governance structure, created a climate that enhanced the quality of schools' relationships with external partners.

The exemplary schools' efforts to develop a culture that supported collaborative relationships among the faculty provided important preconditions for successful relationships with external partners. Organizational restructuring also supported the implementation of the efforts of the external partner. The implementation of San Francisco's Project 2061, for example, would not have been possible without a school structure that allowed time for teachers to plan together. Project 2061 required both collaborative effort on the part of faculty and a commitment to work on alternative assessment (see Box I-6.4).

Box I-6.4

Teacher Collaboration Makes the Implementation of San Francisco's Project 2061 Curriculum Model Possible

Project 2061, launched by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in 1985, was designed to increase scientific literacy for the next generation of children. A team of 300 scientists developed learning goals for all students. Those goals were translated into benchmark standards for science, mathematics, and technology for grades 2, 5, 8, and 12. San Francisco Unified School District was one of six national sites selected to participate in Project 2061. San Francisco Project 2061 staff supported Horace Mann faculty efforts to design curricula and assess learning challenges. Within Horace Mann's family structure, teams of teachers designed learning challenges in which heterogeneous groups of students were challenged to accomplish a project within a given period of time. Students used science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts to meet the challenge.

Similarly, Hanshaw teachers would have faced major challenges developing interdisciplinary thematic units (part of the Kovalik curricular approach) had it not been for the school's ‘house' structure and the collaboration it permitted among ‘core' teachers. These and other approaches to school organization helped to create an environment receptive to change and responsive to new ideas.

Finding #6.5 School Reform Network. Relationships with external partners provided teachers and other school staff with the opportunity to be part of a larger, often national, network of schools undertaking similar reform efforts.

When a school worked closely with an external partner that was part of a national effort, the school staff had the sense that they were participating in a wider endeavor of improving schooling for all children. Partnerships that were locally-based allowed schools to play an integral role in community development efforts. Both types of relationships--national and local--had the effect of reducing isolation. The exemplary school staff networked with other school staff who were undertaking similar reforms and made connections with their community.

Several of the exemplary schools were involved with national reform efforts. Hollibrook's involvement with the Accelerated Schools Project provides opportunities for teachers and staff to attend conferences in which staff from participating schools gather to share with and learn from one another. These schools are bonded by a common philosophical belief that student learning needs to be accelerated. They also share the ‘inquiry method' decision-making process. Horace Mann's on-going participation in San Francisco Project 2061's efforts to increase science literacy illustrates the power of both local and national. Linda Vista's partnership with a New American Schools Development Corporation- (NASDC) sponsored effort is described in detail in Box I-6.5 below.

Box I-6.5

Linda Vista Connects to National School Reform Movement through
the National Alliance for Restructuring Education

The Linda Vista teachers' skill in using technology as an instructional tool was the result of Linda Vista's partnership with the National Alliance for Restructuring Education (a New American Schools Development Corporation project) and Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT), a member of the Alliance. Linda Vista's teachers had the opportunity to attend teacher practicums at ACOT Teacher Development Centers; during these practicums, they learned how to use the equipment and integrate technology into their instruction. Linda Vista was recently selected by ACOT to be a Teacher Development Center (TDC). The concept of TDCs was developed in response to the need to support teachers in making the significant pedagogical shifts that effective use of educational technology require. The goal was to develop an intensive, national staff development model. The result was an ongoing program of week-long teacher practicum at sites that are designated TDCs. As a TDC, Linda Vista teachers will train other National Alliance teachers to investigate new models of learning, integrate technology into the learning process, and develop student-produced projects. ACOT provided a substantial amount of equipment to Linda Vista's four ACOT classrooms. Each had four Macintosh computers with CD-ROM drives and they shared ten Powerbooks. These classrooms also had scanners, televisions, VCRs, and laserdisc players; one had a Palmcorder.


[5. School Culture and Structure that Support High Quality Learning Environments for LEP Students (part 2)] [Table of Contents] [6. The Role of External Partners (part 2 of 2)]