Campus: CSU Long Beach -- March 29, 2002

College of Education Receives $265,000 Grant To Study Effectiveness of K-18 Education Partnerships

The California Academic Partnership Program (CAPP) has awarded a two-year, $265,000 grant to the College of Education at California State University, Long Beach for a project that will study the effectiveness of K-18 education partnerships in improving student achievement.

Called the "California Alliance of Pre K-18 Partnerships," the project will look at seven different education partnerships located throughout the state, describe and analyze the key elements and principles of their success, and provide state-level policy recommendations regarding support for educational renewal through partnerships between K-12 and higher education.

"The CAPP Advisory Committee feels strongly that K-18 partnerships are an effective strategy for helping high schools prepare more students for college," said Dave Jolly, CAPP director. "This study is an attempt to document that and highlight the usefulness of the partnership strategy for more schools."

CAPP is a partnership between California higher education institutions and public schools. The program awards grants to partnerships between schools, higher education institutions and business entities to improve academic programs so that more students are prepared for college. It is funded by the state legislature and administered through the California State University system.

"We have this intuitive feeling that partnerships between higher education and public schools have an impact on improving student achievement, but we need to have more than just a sense or feeling," said Kathy Cohn, associate dean for the CSULB College of Education and one of the principle investigator for the project. "We need to have real, solid evidence, and right now, we don´t. Most of our evidence is anecdotal."

The seven partnerships selected for the project include the Academic Improvement & Achievement Shasta Partnership, the City Heights Project in San Diego, the Kern County Initiative for Teacher Development and Retention, the Long Beach Education Partnership, the Monterey Bay Education Partnership, the Orange County Education Partnership and the North County San Diego Professional Development Federation.

The CSULB project will focus on how the seven partnerships collect, analyze and use data to make decisions about partnership initiative. Do these initiatives make a difference in student achievement, for example.

"Hopefully, by asking the right kinds of questions," Cohn noted, "all of the partnerships will be able to advance their data collection systems, make them more sophisticated and come out with some hard evidence that illustrates the success of these education partnerships in support of educational renewal."

Cohn did point out, however, because of the nature of some of the partnerships, gathering the data won't be easy. Some of the partnerships include more than one institution (such as the Long Beach Educational Partnership with CSULB, Long Beach City College and the Long Beach Unified School District as partners), and collecting data across multiple institutions is more challenging than it is with one.

"A second factor that makes gathering data difficult is nailing down a partnership's effectiveness based on the data," Cohn said. "For example, when you aggregate the data and look at all student achievement in a school district, you can see growth with those numbers, but you can't attribute that growth back to any partnership activities. So, for example, we need to begin looking at specific activities that are partnership-based and how they are impacting teacher performance and behavior so that we can then determine impact on student performance. This long chain of events makes collecting the data difficult."

Collecting data is also a very sensitive issue, according to Cohn, because when individual student and class performance is examined in connection with a specific teacher, some consider this to be a personnel issue.

Site visits will be made to each of the selected partnership programs. In addition, leaders from each partnership will be brought together in April and again in November. During that time, project workers will begin the process of identifying barriers and challenges faced by partnerships and ways that they have been overcome.

"We're going to be looking for common themes or threads or issues that seem to be surfacing for these groups and turn them into policy recommendations," Cohn explained. "Some of the recommendations may require legislation to change rules, practices and requirements. Some of the recommendations may have to do with funding issues.

"The ultimate goal is improving student achievement," she added. "That´s really what our agenda is, and that´s what we think partnering should be all about."

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