A K-20 Holistic Partnership for Change and Improvement: A Special Case of Educational Partnerships and Research

A K-20 Holistic Partnership for Change and Improvement: A Special Case of Educational Partnerships and Research

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7860-5.ch002
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This chapter identifies the theoretical assumptions and a conceptual framework for a holistic and integrative partnership focused on change and improvement in K-20 education and teacher education. Such K-20 partnerships are based on the notion that an organic and integrated whole has a reality independent and greater than the sum of its parts. The author presents the case and urgent need today for re-inventing education by joining and converging the K-12 and higher education (13-20) sectors for an improved system of education and student learning. Included in the schema is the students' voice in the process of change. The essential and transportable elements of a K-20 holistic partnership in education are explained and two successful theory-into-practice examples of partnerships—Project SCOPE I and II—are briefly described. Also a model research approach and perspective on change and continuous improvement for the transformation of American education is offered.
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Introduction And The Case For Convergence

In the previous chapter, comments were made regarding a recent trend toward the convergence of the K-12 and higher education sectors of American education. According to Christopher Loss and Patrick McGuinn (2016), editors of the book The Convergence of K-12 and Higher Education: Policies and Programs in a Changing Era, there is a combination of social, political, technological and economic forces that is moving the two sectors toward coming together. The forces are aptly discussed and woven into the chapters of the book. The chapters were written by a diverse group of experts from different fields, e.g., economics, education, and sociology. Cited among the driving forces of convergence in education policy is the “accountability” model. The drive for accountability was first thrust upon K-12 schools in the 1990s and then again in 2002 with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Later in 2006, the notion of accountability was infused in reforms for higher education in terms of cost, value, quality, performance and access. In a report entitled A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education, commonly known as the Spellings Report, reforms similar to NCLB reforms were identified and recommended for higher education. The report specifically suggested improving student-learning outcomes, lowering costs, insuring more efficient financial aid and providing better institutional data. These reforms were seen as urgently needed in higher education (Loss & McGuinn, 2016, p. 8). Later in 2015, President Obama announced his administration’s “college scorecard” to deal with such matters and reforms. The scorecard was created in order to aid the public in comparing higher education institutions, as well as facilitate reforms. Colleges and universities were compared in regard to their cost, financial aid, graduation rate, employment rate, and average amounts borrowed (see U.S. Department of Education, 2019 for the scorecard). The scorecard was also seen as a way to hold colleges and universities accountable. As explained by Loss and McGuinn (2016), in today’s reality K-12 schools are accountable for making sure students are “college ready,” and colleges and universities are accountable for making sure students learn and are prepared to succeed in a career. In addition, they are to insure low costs, high graduation rates and employability. In a 2018 policy analysis report prepared by Loss and MCGinn for the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the authors state that “This mutual accountability has led K-12 schools and colleges to engage with each other as never before in American history” (p. 17). And now in 2021, the need to work with one another in an effort to respond to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps even greater.

In addition to what Loss and McGuinn call the “accountability paradigm,” they cite other areas of mutuality and K-16 alignment. Such areas as (a) performance outcomes, (b) academic achievement, (c) learning standards, (d) assessments, and (e) access to a quality education for all students are discussed and placed in proposals for convergence. In both their edited book and their Rockefeller policy report of the same name, Loss and McGuinn (2016, 2018) call on the U.S. Congress in its discussions of both the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA)1 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)2 to consider convergence of the two laws. They encourage Congress to do so with a vision of a single unified K-16 system as a new direction for transforming American education. They state emphatically that, “With 90 percent of the high school graduates expressing interest in further education, it is no longer possible to think of one sector in the absence of the other” (2018, p. 4).

Having presented a compelling case for convergence, with concrete evidence that it is already happening, Loss and McGuinn (2016, 2018) recommend five steps that would advance the convergence process and align the two sectors. Such an alignment would allow for an improved education system that would benefit students and ultimately the nation.

  • 1.

    Combine ESEA and HEA

  • 2.

    Merge State K-12 and Higher Education Policies and Agencies

  • 3.

    Encourage K-16 Bridge Building

  • 4.

    Incorporate K-12 and Higher Education Engagement in Accreditation Reviews

  • 5.

    Reconceptualize Educational Scholarship. (pp. 226-227)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative Action Research/Inquiry: In the context of a holistic K-20 partnership, the term refers to action teams of teachers, professors, researchers, students and administrators that commit themselves to exploring and answering compelling questions using a systematic and cyclical process of research for changing and improving education practices, professional education and student learning.

Intermediary Structures: The term refers to the physical and psychological space between two partnering entities, schools and universities, that operates in a semi-autonomous fashion for purposes of creating and researching innovative and effective education practices, and newer forms of education leading to systemic change. Such structures that are set up by partnering institutions are in essence hubs for innovation and system transformation. They also, at times, function to effect or influence policy at the local, state, or federal level.

Holism: As a scientific approach, holism represents a perspective and world view that places emphasis on the whole system, while reductionism places emphasis on the constituent parts of the system. In a holistic approach, the whole has priority over its parts and the assumption that properties of the whole cannot be explained simply by the properties of its parts. Holism tries to understand the elements in relation to one another in the context of the whole.

Convergence: In general, convergence refers to two or more things coming together and evolving into one. In regard to the field of education the term often refers to two systems (e.g., higher education and K-12) joining one another to form a unified whole.

Holistic Partnership: A partnership arrangement between one or more schools and a university that is based on an organic rather than a symbiotic relationship, and that is characterized by integrative and coordinative change, innovation, research and improvement of K-12 education and professional education programs (13-20). Such K-20 partnerships target the separate domains of (a) the school’s curriculum and student learning (K-12), (b) the university’s preservice teacher preparation programs (13-16), and (c) the programs in professional inservice education (including masters and doctoral programs) (17-20), and then integrates them to effect fundamental change and continuous improvement. A holistic partnership operates on the notion that the whole has an identity separate from and greater than the sum of its individual parts.

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