Community Collaboration on Education Reform

Rebecca Herman
Alyson Burnett
Mariesa Cash
Vanessa Coleman

Theory about community-integrated education initiatives (e.g., community schools, Harlem Children’s Zone, Promise Neighborhoods, Strive Partnership) suggests that community school partnerships can increase community engagement with a school, make more efficient and effective use of limited and sometimes overlapping resources, and ultimately lead to improved student outcomes. Research also suggests that coordinating efforts (i.e., teachers, counselors and social workers) within schools contributes to reform implementation and that coordination needs to include larger systems, such as the district, city and county.

The Say Yes to Education (SYTE) foundation has developed an education improvement model that incorporates curriculum, instruction, socioemotional, and health supports into a coherent approach, and SYTE has been engaged in scaling implementation to the community level. The SYTE initiative in Syracuse, New York (Say Yes Syracuse), is a unique venture in the degree to which community stakeholders have rallied around a single initiative, refocusing their resources to support Say Yes Syracuse’s reform strategies, reflected in a set of shared goals.

While it is not clear whether Say Yes Syracuse was successful in fully engaging the public or changing the public conversation about education, its goal and approach remain important and the strategies continue to be viable. This paper describes the design, implementation, challenges and lessons learned regarding collaboration under Say Yes Syracuse and summarizes the lessons learned and implications for similar cross-sector education improvement initiatives.