Partnerships and Collaborative Learning

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Collaborative efforts among academic institutions, businesses and the community at large have existed in education for a long time. The availability of technology has increased these endeavors, which were strengthened when Congress enacted the Educational Partnerships Act in 1988. The Educational Partnerships Program (EPP) encouraged the creation of educational partnerships to demonstrate their contribution to educational reform. Unfortunately, Congress cut funding for the EPP; however, advantages to forming partnerships were recognized even without the program's funding. These advantages include:

  • Tax credits that reduce the liability of companies making donations to nonprofit organizations.
  • Helping the education community prepare better-trained workers.
  • Reducing costs: According to Dun & Bradstreet Inc., expenditures for IT will increase 13 percent this year to about $4 billion.
  • Adding new services: For example, Flamenco Networks has raised $7.4 million from partners to use its software to better manage Web service connections that make linking applications easier.
  • The ability to share talents and expenditures.
  • There are many other advantages to forming partnerships and collaborative efforts. A few current, notable examples include:

  • The Baltimore City Public School System has received $20 million from 10 national and local foundations to build innovative high schools.
  • The ExxonMobile Foundation has awarded $2 million in grants of $500 to more than 3,700 schools nationwide. Use of the grants was left to the decision of local school officers, but many schools plan to use the funds to buy computer hardware and software products.
  • The New Orleans Public Schools received 1,000 computers and 200 laser printers through a grant from the Oracle Help Us Help Foundation and Kyocera Mita America Inc.
  • The Toyota TAPESTRY grant program, administered by the National Science Teachers Association, will distribute 50 grants of up to $10,000 each and a minimum of 20 "minigrants" of $2,500 each to K-12 science teachers.
  • Partnerships are encouraged and have continued to increase considerably. For instance, hardware and software capabilities have expanded and the need to test them is recognized. A team from the universities of Alaska and Amsterdam along with SURFnet, a national computer network for higher education and research in the Netherlands, used standard equipment and the infrastructure developed by the Internet2 consortium to show how data can be transferred 8,000 times faster than with a dial-up modem. The equivalent of an entire CD was sent 7,608 miles from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 13 seconds. Partnerships with Internet2 universities are also providing K-12 schools, community colleges, museums and libraries access to high-performance networks.

    Conclusions

    Partnerships have made possible the advances we have enjoyed; and connections between schools and the community continue to grow. Web-based portal systems have consolidated data for the users, students, teachers, parents and administrators. However, budgets from traditional sources are becoming scarcer, and the need to pursue private and public partnerships has increased. Continued support by all partners must be assured. Surviving after the loss of outside money is often a real problem for schools. In addition, "accountability" is now a key word, so each partner must know what is being spent, how it is being used and what results can be measured. We hope partnerships will continue as all partners coordinate long-term plans with short-term commitments.

    This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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