ERIC Identifier: ED371108
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Burnett, Gary
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban
Education New York NY.| FGK56700 _ National Education Association Washington DC.
Urban Teachers and Collaborative School-Linked Services. ERIC
Increasingly, teachers in urban schools across the United States are finding
themselves at the center of a vast web of interconnected social problems. Far
from being able to concentrate on the singular task of educating their students,
teachers are also being called upon to act as brokers for a diverse array of
social and health services -- services which, while not traditionally within
their purview, can help ameliorate the problems placing students at risk of
While urban teachers obviously cannot provide these services themselves, they
can play a major role in building and maintaining the partnerships and linkages
with the outside social service agencies that are able to deliver them, and can
facilitate use of these services by students and their families (Council of
Chief State School Officers, 1989). In fact, the school site is increasingly the
location of choice for social service provision, in effect functioning as a
centralized clearinghouse for a set of school-linked services.
This digest provides some guidelines for developing partnerships between
schools and outside service agencies, and suggests some of the roles that
teachers can play in the process.
COMMON SCHOOL-LINKED PROGRAMS
Many types of school-linked
programs are currently in operation. In a recent review of 55 collaborative
programs, for instance, Wang, Haertel, and Walberg (in press) outline the
following common programs:
parent and family programs, including parent education, school readiness, and
life skills programs;
programs for sexually active teens, including teen pregnancy and teen parenting
dropout prevention programs;
substance abuse programs, for both alcohol and drugs; and
integrated services programs, combining a wide range of services including
health, vocational, educational, and other social services into a single
Not surprisingly, given such range, many disparate service providers have
joined with the schools in these programs. It is not uncommon, for instance, to
find representatives of social service agencies, health and mental health
agencies, churches, welfare agencies, universities, or senior citizens groups
present on school campuses as participants in a school-linked program.
DEVELOPING A PROGRAM
LEVELS OF COLLABORATION
Although collaborations between schools and
service providers most often begin at the highest levels of administration, the
successful provision of services depends not only upon administrators, but also
on the school people in direct contact with students, including classroom
teachers. Bruner (1991) outlines four levels of collaboration necessary for a
Collaboration between administrators. This kind of top-level collaboration
provides the necessary institutional support for an effective joint program, and
often supplies the impetus for identifying student needs.
Collaboration between social service providers and school personnel, including
teachers. In a real sense, successful services are provided not by agencies but
by individuals; these professionals are responsible for making the day-to-day
work of the collaboration function smoothly, and they should also play a major
role in designing and planning the programs.
Collaboration between members of a participating agency. Both school personnel
and service providers must be able to work successfully with other
representatives of their own agencies. This can help ensure a collegial
atmosphere in a collaboration.
Collaboration between teachers, social service providers, and families. This is
the level at which services are actually delivered. Good collaborative programs
emphasize the point of contact between providers and clients; they adequately
train providers, as well as teachers, and take steps to free them from excessive
paperwork. In most schools, the teachers already have established contact with
parents; they can thus serve as intermediaries, both helping families get the
services they need and helping providers make contact with the families who need
ESTABLISHING THE COLLABORATION
School administrators must
go out of their way to find appropriate service providers who are willing to
become partners. Liontos (1991) offers a number of recommendations. Educators
reach out to the community rather than wait for social service agencies to
participate in community groups and activities, taking on the role of community
seek out information on the activities of local service agencies, setting up
one-on-one and group meetings, and drawing upon the knowledge that their
classroom teachers already possess about local services.
In addition, Liontos suggests, once initial contact has been established,
learn as much as possible about the operations of service providers including
the ways in which their decision-making process works so that they may work with
them more effectively;
elicit the active input of the service providers, including their criticisms of
school operations; and
be willing both to take risks and to make compromises in the interest of a
successful collaboration, thus making the service providers full partners in the
Each school is part of a unique community
with a singular mix of needs and problems; in urban areas in particular, this
mix may be made more complex by the growing ethnic and linguistic diversity of
the population (Chang, 1993). Thus, collaborative programs must make customized
responses to the actual needs of local students and families (Levy &
Shepardson, 1992). As those who come into the closest daily contact with
students, teachers have both the fullest vision of their students' needs, and a
natural stake in designing an effective collaborative service program. Thus,
they should take an active and early role in the planning process, both to
ensure that the students' most essential needs are addressed and that other
planners do not lose sight of the school's primary mission: the education of
students (Jehl & Kirst, 1993). For example, they can work closely with
parents and other community representatives, making sure that the ways in which
services are offered to students take into account the community cultural and
linguistic makeup (Chang, 1993).
Most traditional social service programs are
crisis-oriented; they provide valuable services in response to emergencies, but
do little to meet needs in an ongoing and pro-active way (Melaville & Blank,
1991). Key to an effective school-linked collaboration, however, is the
establishment of clearly stated and measurable goals and desired outcomes at the
outset, in order to identify and respond to student needs before they reach the
crisis stage (Bruner, 1991). In addition, since most teachers have traditionally
dealt with service providers only in times of crisis, program goals should
include methods of enhancing the ongoing communication between teachers and
service providers, thus ensuring that service providers can draw upon the
expertise and knowledge of teachers, and that teachers have a clear
understanding of what services are available (Jehl & Kirst, 1993).
MAINTAINING THE COLLABORATION
In addition to making a
program operate pro-actively, clearly stated goals can help keep the
collaboration itself functioning effectively through specific guidelines for the
ongoing roles and activities of each participant (Bruner, 1991). Goals can also
go far to establish firm accountability for each participant, thus helping to
cultivate a shared vision for the project (Melaville & Blank, 1991).
In any strong project, both formal and informal structures for ongoing
communication between partners should be in place, as part of the program's
daily operations and to allow partners to share information about the changing
needs of their community (Liontos, 1990; Melaville & Blank, 1991).
Teachers are the primary service providers for
the children in their classrooms. As such, they can be the force that makes
school-linked programs work, acting not only as the essential channels of
communication between service providers and local communities, but also as full
and committed participants in the daily delivery of social services. The full
participation of teachers can do much to fulfill the hopes raised by the
implementation of school-linked programs.
Bruner, C. (1991). Thinking collaboratively: Ten
questions and answers to help policy makers improve children's services.
Washington, DC: Education and Human Services Consortium. (ED 338 984)
Chang, H. (1993). Serving ethnically diverse communities. Education and Urban
Society, 25(2), 212-221. Council of Chief State School Officers. (1989). Family
support: Education and involvement. A guide for state action. Washington, DC:
Author. (ED 319 112)
Jehl, J., & Kirst, M. W. (1993). Getting ready to provide school-linked
services: What schools must do. Education and Urban Society, 25(2), 153-165.
Levy, J. E., & Shepardson, W. (1992). A look at current school-linked
service efforts. Future of Children, 2(1), 44-55.
Liontos, L. B. (1990). Collaboration between schools and social services.
Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. (ED 320 197)
Liontos, L. B. (1991). Social services and schools: Building collaborations
that work. Eugene, OR: Oregon School Study Council. (ED 343 264)
Melaville, A. I., & Blank, M. J. (1991). What it takes: Structuring
interagency partnerships to connect children and families with comprehensive
services. Washington, DC: Education and Human Services Consortium. (ED 330 748)
Wang, M. C., Haertel, G. D., & Walberg, H. J. (in press). The
effectiveness of collaborative school-linked services. In E. Flaxman & A. H.
Passow (Eds.), Changing students/changing schools (The Yearbook of the National
Society for the Study of Education). Chicago: National Society for the Study of