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THE BENEFITS OF BUSINESS AND EDUCATION PARTNERSHIPS

Business and school partnerships are two groups that have one common interest. Both are extremely concerned about the success of graduating students in American schools. Both can also make a significant difference in the success of those graduating students.

Background

Since the invention of the microprocessor in the early 70’s, society has seen tremendous changes. Consider that in 1980, the fax machine and computer networking had not yet been produced. Now consider that in the near future voiceprint, which translates the spoken word to hard print instantaneously, will be in regular use. In addition, with the development of the Apple Newton, keyboards may soon be a thing of the past. Newton is a new generation of pocket sized computers called “palmtops” which take handwritten messages and converts them into text.1

Studies show there were only 386,000 computers in schools in 1983-84 school year. However, the same research shows there were 2.5 million computers in schools in the 1990-91 school year; a 600 percent increase.

Graph 1

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Source: Electronic Learning, September, 1992.

Our once industrial economy has almost transformed overnight into an economy which is based on the creation and distribution of information. According to John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends, “Our most formidable challenge will be to train people to work in the information society.” 2

With these changes occurring so rapidly, the challenge to ensure educational success for every student confronts both schools and the business communities. Education can not keep pace without the help of businesses. In the past few years, businesses have done much to help local school.

However, businesses and educators must work harder to devise new and creative ways to communicate and form alliances between one another. Both must see how business resources, knowledge and experience can play a substantial role in the molding of the next century’s work force.

Problem Statement

This research report will examine the benefit of business and education partnerships.

Scope

The scope of this research report covers the variety of benefits that business and school partnerships provide for students, teachers, businesses, and schools.

Limitations

One limitation for this research paper came from an unreturned phone call from a prospective primary source. The call was to the Coca-Cola Foundation. Another limitation occurred when statistical information at Gwinnett County’s Central Office was incomplete concerning current information on their business/education partnerships.

Methodology

The research for this report came from both primary and secondary sources. The primary sources were from two phone interviews and one personal interview. The secondary sources were from The Georgia State Library, The West Georgia College Library and The Business Education Library at West Georgia College.

BUSINESS AND EDUCATION PARTNERSHIPS

In order for partnerships to succeed, education and businesses must both recognize and receive benefits from their partnership. Too often partnerships between schools and businesses have been thought of as one-way streets. In Gwinnett County, a large school district in Georgia, benefits for both participants are emphasized. And out of Gwinnett’s sixty schools, fifty-one have at least one or more than one business partner.3

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Benefits for Students

Students are the common thread that link both business and education together. Both American businesses and educators must prove that they can produce quality products. To succeed, both must be willing to work together as a team.

Instructional Development
One way businesses have teamed with education to benefit students is through mentor/tutor programs. These programs are aimed at providing instructional support as well as healthy role models for students.

A pioneer in this area of work is Eastman Kodak who in the year of 1992 alone enlisted as many as 3000 Kodak employees to serve as mentors or tutors in the Rochester, New York, schools where the company's headquarters is located.4 With the same goal but a different approach Amoco has offered to donate $20 to a school for every hour that one of its retired employees volunteers at that school.5 And Chrysler has offered to give employees time off to tutor schoolchildren in conducting science projects and using computers.6 With programs like Chrysler’s, Kodak’s, and Amoco’s businesses can directly impact student success and self-esteem.

In a program called Adopt-A-School, students at a Richmond, Virginia elementary school work with two tutors from the Arts Council of Richmond, Inc. These tutors work with students in developing their creativity.7 In another situation in the same school system a partner took 300 students to a college basket ball game.8

The common theme in all the above examples has been the interaction with students from business. The results have been quantifiable and very positive. For example, in the case of Procter and Gamble's ASPIRE program, mentors and tutors were placed in a local high school. A study conducted on the ASPIRE program showed that performance levels of students who had mentors were higher than those students without mentors.9

"Real-World" Experiences
Providing "real-world" opportunities connects what students study in school and what is actually happening in the real world. Successful school/business partnerships have focused on providing experiences for students that connects learning in the classroom with what happens in business and industry.

One way to bring “real-world” experiences into the classroom is to have the “real world” visit the classroom. One such program to bring such experiences to the classroom is the Jason Project. This nationally known program evolved because of the excitement generated by Dr. Robert Ballard, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Dr. Ballard's discovery of the shipwrecked Titanic began a partnership with education that has enabled literally hundreds of thousands of students to explore the mysteries of the sea via real-time electronic equipment from Ballard's floating laboratory.10 Students view discoveries as they happen and work with a curriculum guide created by the Jason Project specialists.

A school in Connecticut has found another unique way to bring the “real-world” into the classroom. With the help of local businesses, The Enterprise Center located on the campus of The New Milford High School includes four real businesses - a bank, a desktop publishing business, a custom woodworking shop, and an award-winning cable television network. What is even more exciting about this partnership is that all the businesses are run by students.

To help the bank get started, one local bank provided startup costs and a half-time bank manager. The students did the rest of the work. The bank which offers savings and checking services as well as mortgage loans, offers students the real-world experiences they need. Students also gain math and vocational credits for their work.11

Internships for Students
Another way to have students exposed to “real-world” experiences is to send students into the real-world. One such instance is a work/study program called New Horizons begun by some Virginia businesses. New Horizons is a unique work-study program designed to provide year-round training and employment for high school students from low-income families.12 There are literally thousands of other schools using similar models in their vocational education programs.
Another unique approach to sending students into the business world has been accomplished through a program involving the Atlanta Zoo and local schools. This project sends students to the Atlanta City Zoo to observe and study animal behavior. Students then return to the school to compile information they obtain and submit their results to scientists at the zoo for evaluation. Students experience first hand the role of a scientist in real-world circumstances.13

Benefits for Teachers

The key link between businesses and their future work force are teachers. Businesses can play a significant role in a teacher's growth. One way is by enhancing opportunities for professional growth and development. In addition, businesses can provide teachers with more opportunities to interact with other professionals and chances to try new ideas. As a result, instruction and student success will be greatly enhanced.

Professional Growth
Apple Computer, Inc. a partner in education with Trickum Middle School in Lilburn, Georgia provides teachers with incentives and support for professional growth. For example, each month a "Technology Teacher of the Month" is awarded a complimentary dinner by Apple for their utilization of instructional technology. In addition to these incentives, Apple has provided special discounts for staff members who purchased home computers. Free teacher productivity software and Saturday training have also been awarded to staff members.14

Internships for Teachers
A special program in Georgia called GIFT (Georgia Industrial Fellowships for Teachers, Inc.) matches science, mathematics, and computer science teachers with local metro-Atlanta organizations. The fellowships last for eight weeks and teachers are paid $5000.00 for their work. The program is designed to expose teachers to applications in mathematics, science, and/or technology in the business and research environment.

From their summer experience, teachers grow professionally in many different ways. One significant way is in a teacher’s subject field. Participating teachers are required to spend at least ten percent of their time developing and planning curriculum which is designed to apply their experiences in the classroom.

The program has been a success for both teachers and businesses. Since its inception in 1990, the GIFT program has grown over 300 percent. According to Joanna Fox, Director of GIFT, the program’s 55 business and research organizations that are currently participating are thrilled to have a skilled work force and opportunity to affect teachers.15

Graph 3

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Benefits for Businesses

For a partnership to continue and prosper, both participants in the partnership must derive benefits from their relationship. This rule is just as important to business and education as to husband and wife relationships. Education has much to offer businesses besides just future employees.

Test Site for Products
One such way businesses can be benefited by partnerships is from the use of schools as pilot sites. There are many companies that market products and services to schools which serve as appropriate partners. One such partner is LEGO DACTA, the educational division of LEGO Inc. Their pilot schools have provided priceless product information and given new direction in marketing and research.16

Many other technology and software companies have similar partnerships with local schools. For example, Apple Computer Inc., uses student generated projects produced by their partner, Trickum Middle School to market Apple hardware and software to other schools. They also use Trickum’s Apple lab as a model site to show potential buyers.17

Consultation From Teachers
Teachers can be a great resource for businesses who need for their employees to be updated on certain skills. For example, teachers in a Missouri School District are providing workshops for businesses in language for those traveling abroad, and office skills to update or train employees. They have also done workshops on assertive discipline for those employees who are parents.18

Use of School Facilities
In Missouri, the Columbia School District has offered its partners the use of their facilities. Business partners in this district have accepted the offer and now hold many meetings in local schools. On other occasions businesses have used a local school’s gym for basketball, and volleyball. They have also jointly participated in aerobic classes with teachers.19

Another way businesses have shared facilities is through technological equipment that both businesses and schools need to do their respective work. As equipment becomes more and more expensive, sharing seems more logical and efficient. One high school in Manhattan has recently partnered with Phillip Morris to build a model office at their school. The new equipment provided the business education department with the latest technology and also gave Phillip Morris a well-trained pool of future employees.20

Benefits for Schools

Businesses have a vast amount of resources to offer schools in the way of experience, consulting, equipment, and funds. Schools must broaden their scopes and begin to tap resources other than just funds or equipment.

Consultation and Communication
Many schools are tapping businesses’ experience in the area of planning and reform. For example, the Xerox Corporation has partnered with schools in California, New York, and Virginia to apply the principals of its Quality Management Process (QMP). This process focuses on a team approach to planning in the school setting. Xerox employees work with education leaders to consult and plan strategies that meet the needs of individual schools and districts. Through this partnership, Xerox receives valuable feedback about its QMP model in different organizational settings and schools get direction for their strategic planning process.21

At Trickum Middle School in Georgia, local planning for the following year’s goals does not proceed without the help of its business partner, Apple Computer Inc. A one day planning session includes local representatives from Apple giving advice and directions for the following year’s goals in technology. The expert advice has significantly shaped Trickum’s technology program. For the past two years Trickum has led in the advancement of technology in middle schools for Gwinnett County.22

Contributions of Resources
Without a doubt the most impressive benefit to schools has been businesses’ ability to provide expensive contributions to a local or system wide school. Most noticeable are computer equipment. For the 1991-92 school year, Trickum Middle School’s partner Apple Computer Company donated close to $5000.00 in equipment alone.23
 
 

FINDINGS

Below are some of the findings based on the research of this paper:
1. The society in the twenty-first century will demand a graduate who is highly skilled.

2. Technology is constantly changing and has grown at a tremendous rate since the beginning of the microchip.

3. Education and Businesses have student success as a common interest.

4. Business/education partnerships are providing creative ways to get “real-world” experiences to students.

5. Business/education partnerships have provided opportunity for direct influence on student success.

6. Teacher contacts with businesses are providing enriching professional growth.

7. Businesses are finding creative and useful ways to utilize school resources.

8. Schools are gaining much needed communication, consultation, and equipment for curriculum development.
 
 

CONCLUSIONS

The following is a list of conclusions after careful research of this subject:
1. Businesses and schools are directly affected by technological changes in society.

2. Since business and education have students in common, both should share responsibility for their success.

3. Based upon the tremendous changes seen in the past and forecasted for the future, education and businesses need each other to be successful.

4. Businesses do have an impact upon student performance and growth both academically and socially.

5. Businesses should be a part of challenging teachers to grow professionally.

6. Both business and schools can continue to fulfill needs of each partner.
 
 

RECOMMENDATIONS

After reviewing the findings and conclusions, here is a list of recommendations:
1. Schools should develop a strategic action plan aimed at restructuring schools for the next century’s society.

2. Action plan committee members should include business people, teachers, parents, students, and educational visionaries.

3. There should be national legislative incentives for both schools and businesses that form partnerships.

4. National awards should be created and given for those businesses and schools that develop the most creative and successful partnerships.
 

5. Schools should have a business person at every curriculum meeting.

6. Educators should be provided one year sabbaticals for opportunities to work in the business world.
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