The following is an excerpt from The ForwARd Partnerships at Little Rock School District Toolkit:
The ForwARd Partnerships at Little Rock School District Toolkit provides step-by-step processes that teachers and administrators in the Little Rock School District (LRSD) can use to develop school-community partnerships. There are several types of partnership models, including service-learning partnerships, wrap-around service partnerships, and volunteer-based partnerships to name a few. However, this toolkit is designed to facilitate the development of any type of school-community partnership.
At the time of the creation of this toolkit, the LRSD central office tasked each of its middle schools with developing a project-based learning partnership with an organization in the community. The district’s definition of project-based learning reads:
Project-Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. Buck Institute of Education, 2018
Research has shown that creating school-community partnerships can increase student retention, engagement, and academic success. Project-based learning, in particular, was selected to foster higher order thinking, innovative problem solving, and workforce preparedness.
It is important to note that through the Partners in Education program all of the middle schools in the Little Rock School District have existing partnerships with community organizations, including: churches, banks, insurance agencies, local universities, youth mentoring programs, and more. The number of partnerships and the nature of the partnerships varies greatly from school to school.
While Superintendent Poore and Dr. Whitehorn recognize and value that many partnerships already exist, they believe there is still a need and an opportunity to create more formalized school-community partnerships that are positioned to make systemic change by retaining students in the district, creating more engaging and relevant course-work, and fostering community buy-in in the middle schools; this tailored school-community partnership toolkit will aid in the creation of these formalized partnerships.