Research shows that partnerships between schools and external organisations can often perpetuate it rather than alleviate it.
The idea of making stronger connections between business and schools has been embraced by many principals as they seek to improve resourcing and address complex student needs.
However, one study shows that these partnerships are more likely to exist with schools that are better resourced to begin with.
Research by associate professor, Ebony Bridwell-Mitchell, an expert in school policy and leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, found that in some circumstances, these partnerships actually worsen the inequities between schools.
Using data on school resource needs, sociometric measures, and a set of multilevel logit models, the results of a study of 211 New York City public high schools and 1,098 partner organisations from 1999 to 2005 suggest that high schools have unequal access to partner resources.
“Already well-endowed schools, in terms of having many experienced teachers or being embedded in dense networks, are most likely to partner,” associate professor Bridwell-Mitchell said.
“Disadvantaged schools, in terms of having many low socioeconomic status students or being in high-competition network positions, are least likely to partner. So, some policies promoting school partnerships may unintentionally reinforce existing structural inequalities among schools.”
According to the study, published in Harvard University’s Usable Knowledge, schools having had a partner at least three years are essentially guaranteed to have the partner in subsequent years.
Conversely, says associate professor Bridwell-Mitchell, schools that have never established a partnership are much less likely to have them in the future.
“Hence, the rich get richer effect,” she said.