Developing a Partnership
Set A Vision
Texas Partnerships can help districts meet their student outcome goals. These partnerships are most effective when they connect to a district’s broader vision for student success that considers academic goals, the diversity of student needs, expectations for low-performing schools, and a desire for continuous and dramatic improvement. Districts will form that vision in concert with the community and use that vision as the north star that guides all school actions. To develop a strong vision that drives the work with Texas Partnerships and other school actions, the district leadership team should consider the following:
- How could engaging in a partnership improve student learning and encourage innovative learning methods, and how is this tied to the district’s broader strategy to improve student outcomes?
- How would a partnership create more professional opportunities that would attract teachers to your district?
- How would the district’s process for selecting and overseeing the performance contract with a partner bolster accountability in the district?
Identify Schools for Texas Partnership
First, districts should establish and apply transparent and objective criteria for identifying existing schools or neighborhoods where a Texas Partnership would address a specific community need. That could mean launching a new partnership at an Innovation School in a rapidly growing part of town or restarting a struggling school at risk of closure as a Turnaround School. This first step should produce a list of likely partnership schools the district can share with potential partner organizations. The list also serves as a starting point for working with school communities in the partnership process.
Secondly, districts should identify schools for a Texas Partnership based on a school performance framework or additional criteria, such as school readiness, community support, and potential for matching it with qualified partner organizations. Districts should also consider alternative school actions, such as school closure or redesign, that may be more appropriate for meeting district and school objectives.
Engage the School Community
It is critical that the district communicate clearly and consistently with all of its stakeholders. The district should clearly articulate the reasons for the partnership, the goals for partnership, and what families can expect from the process. It is also essential to set clear expectations for community involvement. Community members should know when they will have an opportunity to vote, shape a policy or statement, or provide feedback – and how the district will then use that information to develop the partnership.
Finally, it is important to anticipate that partnerships may not be well-understood, especially in districts where partnerships do not already exist, and families and school staff feel uncertain about the future of their school. Districts must set clear expectations about the partnership, including how it will form and how it will work, and to communicate at each step along the way.
Recruit Operating Partners
- An overview of Texas Partnerships and anticipated roles and responsibilities
- Details about the schools and types of partnerships desired
- High-level student demographic data so operators can determine if they are a good fit
- Detailed information about the needs of students at each schools
- Community priorities for the school
- Grant funds or supplemental funds available for the partnership, including an estimate of potential funding available to approved partnership schools
- Any non-negotiables for partnership from the district’s perspective
- Clear, published criteria for evaluating operator applications
Texas Partnerships will only be as successful as the partners participating in them, and recruiting great operating partners takes time. Districts should ideally begin recruiting potential operators as soon as they think they may want to partner and should start cultivating a pipeline of leaders and high-performing school operators to support this work.
Collect & Evaluate Local Partnership Applications
A Strong Partner Application, Includes:
- Evidence of prior success (if applicable)
- A sound educational plan
- Student discipline policy
- Annual performance goals
- Governance board with diverse skill set
- Recognition of unique needs of different student groups and a plan to address them
- Strong people management system
- A vision for school culture
- A thoughtful student recruitment plan
- An evaluation and assessment plan
- Strong leadership team
- How the operator will address any other specific campus needs
Nominate Partner Applications for Board Approval
All local campus partner applications must receive local board approval. Districts should be sure to schedule time for this step that recognizes both the board’s meeting schedule and the time needed to inform the entire school community about the benefits of the partnership and to win support.
Partnerships may also fundamentally shift in roles and responsibilities for the school district, the new charter operating partner, and other community members and organizations that have had an ongoing relationship with the school. District leaders can help prepare their local boards to make these difficult decisions by providing detailed information about the campus identification and partner selection and allowing adequate time for board members to evaluate the opportunity and hear community input.
Negotiate & Execute Performance Contracts with Selected Partners
In accordance with a district’s local authorizing policy, the performance contract formalizes the partnership, clarifies roles and responsibilities, and sets expectations for the partnership. The performance contract outlines the operating partners autonomy over the academic model, staffing, budget, and calendar, and it includes the academic model the partner will implement at the campus(es) they will manage. The contract will also include the funding structure of the partnership and the academic and financial goals the operating partner must meet. The operating partner will already have provided most of these details through the application process, and the contract simply codifies those details. (This is another reason why having a robust application and evaluation process is important!)