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Partnering Externally to Cultivate Capacity Internally

“We would not have come as far as we did, or as quickly, without the help of our external partners.” (Kimberly Richards)


Challenge: How can external partnership help districts extend or accelerate their scaling process.

Context: Dallas ISD, TX, and Fulton County, GA, are two examples of districts that used an external consulting partner to help leaders and teachers develop the know-how and confidence to lay the groundwork for new instructional practices.

Chicago Public Schools, IL, offers a different kind of example, liaising with a number of local partners to give schools multiple options for partnership and guidance.

Action Steps:

Consulting Partnerships

Leaders in Dallas worked with both 2Revolutions, an education design lab focused on professional development, and the education consulting group SchoolWorks to help them jump start their develop protocols and conduct school visits. Similarly, leaders in Fulton County engaged Education Elements to help them develop their communication and professional development plans, create strategies for conducting “learning walks” of schools, and engaging teachers and school leaders in deepening their understanding of their current practices.

In both cases, district leaders acknowledged that having a partner early on provided helpful frameworks and guidance, and perhaps just as importantly, provided a sense of validation to drive the work forward.

School-based Partnerships

In order to facilitate multiple engagement pathways for schools, leaders in Chicago Public Schools curated a set of external organizations that schools could apply to partner with, depending on the pathway they chose. These pathways included:

  • Introductory engagement – Schools that wanted to start small could partner, for example, with the education technology team at the Institute for Personalized Learning.
  • Pilot – Schools that wanted to establish a more substantial pilot program could partner with organizations such as Summit Learning and LEAP Innovations.
  • Whole School – Schools committed to a full redesign could apply for the CPS Elevate program in partnership with LEAP.

External partnerships played a large role in helping schools determine how (and at what speed) they wanted to approach shifting to more personalized instructional practices.