The ideas for articles in this Partners for Student Success series come from annual collections of Promising Partnership Practices by the National Network of Partnership Schools. Established by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, NNPS is dedicated to bringing together schools, districts, and states that are committed to developing and maintaining comprehensive programs of school-family-community partnerships.
"Based on more than a decade of research and the work of many educators, parents, students, and others, we know that it is possible for all elementary, middle, and high schools to develop and maintain strong programs of partnership," NNPS director Joyce L. Epstein told Education World.
NNPS provides a wide range of resources to help schools and school districts build strong partnerships. Click the links below to
As the volunteer services coordinator for Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts in Anoka, Minnesota, one of Orr's most important duties is to recruit adults to join Classroom Coordinators (CCs), a team of room parents for classrooms within the building. She reviews volunteer applications and class lists, promotes the program at events like Open House, and works with teachers to find the best match for their classrooms. Once the teachers have offered their input, volunteers are invited to become coordinators. These classroom helpers are given a packet of information and attend an orientation session.
Orr reports that many successful efforts have been spurred by the CC program. For example, one coordinator made a point of keeping all parents in her childs class informed about the classs 100th day celebration, the school variety show, fundraisers, and other events. She contacted families that had submitted contact information via a permission form.
Another coordinator worked with a fifth grade teacher and the middle school to develop a transition newsletter. It was designed to help parents whose fifth graders were preparing to make the leap from elementary to middle school.
Classroom Coordinators is a yearlong program that starts in the fall with Open House and ends in the spring with a celebration. Since the beginning of the school year is very busy, it works best to have much of the preparation done in the spring and ready to go for the fall," Orr advises. "If you are just starting, do your research by talking with your principal and teachers to get their ideas about if and how this program can be of value to your school. If you plan to have coordinators, start early to develop a contact permission form, make copies, and assemble information packets."
Orr refers to Classroom Coordinators as a "work in progress." The program encourages flexibility and seeks to build on the strengths, needs, and talents of the coordinators, teachers, and classrooms. Although a "job description" with a list of potential tasks is offered, the coordinators and teachers decide together what the volunteer role will entail, such as contacting parents, helping in the classroom, doing clerical tasks, organizing other volunteers, planning parties, and more.
Every year, participating coordinators and teachers are asked to evaluate the program so it may continue to grow and develop. This year's goal and "area of growth" is to expand the coordinators' role with regard to fundraisers.
"The work that these volunteers do is amazing, and many individuals work together to make it happen -- our Lincoln Partnership Team, principal, curriculum coordinator, staff, teachers, secretaries, volunteers, and families," Orr added. "It is a small town, grass-roots feel -- parents talking to parents, school and families working together for the good of our students -- that is the best!"