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Peabody Journal of Education, Volume 88, Issue 5, 2013

Higher Education’s Role in Public School Reform and Community Engagement

Institutions of higher education endeavor to produce and disseminate influential research on public school reform, but the exact role of higher education as a reform partner in a community is subject to tense debate. In this issue of the Peabody Journal of Education, Issues of Leadership, Policy and Organization, editors Robert F. Kronick, Jessica Nina Lester and D. Gavin Luter analyze this complex political relationship between higher education and public school reform by examining the struggles faculty members face from administrators within higher education as well as struggles of communities related to the effectiveness of partnerships with higher education. The introduction to the issue explores the dangers of defining partnerships and foretells the unique approaches to “partnerships” that each of the authors takes throughout the issue. Collectively, this issue presents and analyzes current literature on community involvement, school reform and partnerships between universities and public schools.

Ira Harkavy and his colleagues focus on the University of Pennsylvania’s university-assisted community school model, introduced by John Dewey, and explores the possibilities for further progress therein. Building on Dewey’s ideas, the authors argue that school reform should be a high priority on the agenda of higher education institutions and their role in such reform should weigh heavily when responding to their requests for resources, financial and otherwise. Taylor, McGlynn and Luter examine a federal Choice neighborhood initiative to extend the scope of education reform beyond school reform and toward neighborhood development. The authors argue that typical school reform initiatives ignore neighborhood factor, so they pursue a case study approach to examine why school reform and neighborhood development should coincide with one another. Further, they seek to demonstrate how this can happen and how the university can play a unique role in this initiative. Officer, Grim and Medina argue that universities are under utilized resources in the school reform struggle and coordination with higher education can create higher academic achievement in struggling communities. This article emphasizes the experiences of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis in collaboration with local neighborhoods to foster a strong university-community partnership.

Next, McDonald, Domingo, Jeffery, Pietanza and Pignatosi define what a theory of action is and discuss the theory of action for New York University’s Partnership Schools Program as well detail the implementation of this theory through describing the core elements of the program for the sake of replication. Walsh and Backe then shift the discussion by examining the history of school-university partnerships and reflecting on a potential solution to an historically neglected area of partnership between schools and universities. Sharon Shields and colleagues present an ecological perspective by asserting that university-community collaboration can improve the health of entire families. Drawing on the connection between health and academic achievement, the authors describe the foundations of an undergraduate course guided by an ecological systems lens and a service-learning approach to build community partnerships that improve the health and success of students, among other positive outcomes for communities.

Andrew Furco details four significant barriers facing external partners working to promote reform in K-12 schools. As internal legitimization is crucial in building strong community engagement in local schools, the article endeavors to provide strategies to overcome each individual barrier. Hal Lawson then advocates for a third-generation collaborative parternship involving the private sector that also entails state leaders as major stakeholders in both P-16 and Cradle –Through- Career Education Systems. Finally, the editors close the issue by discussing the issue’s three most salient themes and highlighting how these themes fit within the broader partnership and education reform literature.

The Peabody Journal of Education would like to sincerely thank Robert F. Kronick, Jessica Nina Lester and D. Gavin Luter for organizing this excellent issue. The PJE is also thankful to each of the authors for their contributions, without which this issue examining university-community-school partnerships would not be possible. We hope practitioners and researchers alike will find this discussion insightful as well as useful.

Journal abstracts are linked to titles.

Introduction: Higher Education’s Role in Public School Reform and Community Engagement
Kronick, Lester, & Luter

The Promise of University-Assisted Community Schools to Transform American Schooling: A Report From the Field, 1985–2012
Harkavy, Hartley, Hodges, & Weeks

Neighborhoods Matter: The Role of Universities in the School Reform Neighborhood Development Movement
Taylor, McGlynn, & Luter

Strengthening Community Schools Through University Partnerships
Officer, Grim, Medina, Bringle, & Foreman

In and of the City: Theory of Action and the NYU Partnership School Program
McDonald, Domingo, Jeffery, Riccio, & Pignatosi

School–University Partnerships: Reflections and Opportunities
Walsh & Backe

An Ecological Approach to a University Course that Develops Partnerships Impacting Health and Wellness in K-12 Schools and Communities
Shields, Gilchrist, Nixon, Holland, & Thompson

Legitimizing Community Engagement with K-12 Schools

Third-Generation Partnerships for P-16 Pipelines and Cradle-Through-Career Education Systems

Conclusion to Higher Education's Role in Public School Reform and Community Engagement
Kronick, Lester, & Luter