April 26, 2017

Bridging the Divide: The Power of Cross-School Collaboration

by Laura Perille

EdVestors was founded 15 years ago on the idea that together we are more effective. A group of Boston business leaders and philanthropists wished to support urban education, yet they knew they lacked the expertise to identify and evaluate the most promising ideas. And, while schools had solutions for how best to serve their students, they needed a partner and advocate in philanthropy to achieve their goal of improving outcomes for Boston’s youth.

Today at EdVestors, we see collaboration as the opportunity to work together and learn from one another. We know that, in schools, collaboration is often at the core of innovation and problem-solving. It happens at the teacher level when teachers work together to identify what is and isn’t working or to develop new approaches. It also happens at the school level when leaders reach out to other schools or organizations to leverage expertise not present in their schools.

This spirit of collaboration is why this year’s 15th Annual Urban Education Showcase, which featured the nine school improvement initiatives included in the 2017 School Solutions Seed Fund, was so encouraging. Sharing good ideas is difficult work: it takes time, trust, and the right people at the table. Nevertheless, this year’s Showcase presented the largest number of cross-school and cross-sector collaborations in the Seed Fund’s history, including thirteen schools, three nonprofits, two community health centers, and two BPS district offices.

While most of this year’s Seed Fund initiatives place teacher collaboration at their core and several involve partnerships between schools and an outside organization or district office, three initiatives have reached across the charter-district divide to identify common challenges and test solutions together:

  • A group of three teachers from Boston Collegiate Charter School, Jeremiah Burke High School, and Match Community Day Public Charter School – two Commonwealth Charters and a traditional district school – met through EdVestors’ Zeroing in on Math initiative, which aims to increase middle grades math proficiency across all of Boston’s public schools (charter and district). The group of teachers recognized a common need: cost-effective, personalized professional development for teachers. Together they designed an initiative called Do-It-Yourself Coaching which provides support to a cohort of teachers in using video to reflect on their own teaching and learn collaboratively with their peers.
  • Young Man with a Plan is an initiative among a coalition of twelve district, charter, and faith-based schools that provides asset-based mentoring and academic support for young men of color in Boston’s high schools.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the long-running debate over the role of charter vs. district schools in the education landscape, it is inspiring to see schools – communities of educators – collaborate not only within their buildings, but also across school type and sector. The power of collaboration comes from recognizing that when we work together, we’re likely to have better ideas and more success than if we try to go it alone.

While collaboration is not a requirement for support from EdVestors’ Seed Fund, schools are choosing collaboration as a deliberate strategy to improve educational outcomes for their students. On the front lines of education, our teachers and school leaders are willing to say, “I don’t have all the answers” and “I’d like to learn from you.”

We look forward to learning alongside these schools as they work together and wrestle with the challenges that stand between where they are and where they wish to be for their students. We look to them as examples of all that is possible in a city that is diverse in school types and rich with good ideas that only improve when we work together.

Laura Perille is the President and CEO of EdVestors. To learn more about the School Solutions Seed Fund, click here.

Coming Soon: Part II: The Power of Teacher Collaboration…