New Toolkit for Schools: Creating and Supporting Meaningful Partnerships


New Toolkit for Schools: Creating and Supporting Meaningful Partnerships

The Ugandan proverb “Omwana takulila nju emoi,” or “A child does not grow up only in a single home," captures the growing consensus among experts in the field that multiple learning environments can provide more benefits to children than schools alone. When schools partner with organizations that share a common vision and provide additional opportunities for student learning, these experiences reinforce one another and can strengthen students’ education. However, creating and sustaining effective school-based partnerships is easier said than done.

There are some promising examples all around the city. Cultural institutions are working in schools every day to engage students in activities that build arts appreciation, knowledge of other cultures, and students’ self-efficacy.  Multi-service agencies are providing out-of-school time programs that enhance student learning and engagement with schools.

As part of William Penn Foundation’s mission to increase the number of children from Philadelphia’s low-income communities who experience academic success, we recognize the power of effective school-based partnerships. When done well, partnerships between schools and outside organizations can yield numerous benefits:

  • Students experience greater social and academic success, continuity of support throughout their day, year and academic career, diverse and comprehensive learning opportunities, and access to community resources.
  • Schools are strengthened by increased parent engagement, improvements in the quality of teaching practices as teachers experiment with instructional strategies, and positive improvements in school culture as students come to school eager to learn in new ways.
  • Partner organizations reach new students who can deeply benefit from their services, and they gain access to school resources that can improve the quality of services they offer.1

To help schools and organizations develop the strong partnerships that can produce these results, we supported Abt Associates to work with Philadelphia Youth Network to investigate:

  • What constitutes a successful school-based partnership?
  • What systems and procedures need to be in place to maximize student success?
  • How can partnerships be developed and maintained so that success continues?


This work has produced previous publications that document the research on partnerships and provide a guide for building effective school-based partnerships.

The latest in this series of publications on school-based partnerships provides all of the tools and materials that a district leader would need to train others in successful partnership development, including a Facilitator's Guide and necessary materials (slides, handouts, etc.)

Intended for new partners, established partners, teachers, principals and district leadership, this toolkit is a how-to manual for initiating conversations, the planning process, and management of an established partnership. Regardless of the intensity, duration, and level of maturity characterizing a partnership, this toolkit contains strategies that can be used to create and support partnerships that maximize student success.

We are excited about Abt Associates’ work to help schools and organizations in Philadelphia – and around the country – serve students better. To see more insight from Abt Associates on this important work, check out the recent blog post here.

While building quality partnerships takes hard work, time, resources and dedication from both organizations, we hope this toolkit inspires you to pick up the phone or send an email to take the first step toward creating a meaningful partnership – one that sets students up for success in school and in life. When organizations work together in pursuit of a common goal, great things can happen.


1Harvard Family Research Project. (2010). Partnerships for Learning: Promising Practices in Integrating School and Out-of-School Time Program Supports. Retrieved from

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