Best Starts for Kids Supports School-Community Partnerships

Evaluating Equitable School Partnerships Across BSK Strategies

By: Isabel Callaway, Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD) BSK School Partnerships Evaluation Team

This blog is the first of a three-part series, introducing the first year of the Best Starts for Kids School Partnerships evaluation. The second post highlights Best Starts-supported partnerships at Mill Creek Middle School in Kent School District. The third shares how an established school partnership helped a community quickly adjust and respond to COVID-19.

Best Starts for Kids (BSK) School Partnerships strive to create school environments that are “safe, supportive, respectful and engaging” for students, staff and families. Best Starts partners with schools and community-based organizations (CBOs) to provide opportunities for students who face systemic barriers in pursuing their educational, career, and life goals. Best Starts engaged the Puget Sound Educational Service District’s (PSESD) Strategy, Evaluation and Learning team to better understand how CBOs and schools are working together.

The Best Starts for Kids School Partnerships evaluation looks at the range of ways partnerships are developing:

  • Are schools sharing data, resources and decision-making authority with community organizations?
  • Do community partners, school staff and families share a vision for their students?
  • Are schools and community organizations building trusting relationships so they can collaborate to support students?

To answer these questions and more, we spoke with school and CBO leaders working in nine schools with multiple Best Starts for Kids School Partnership grants.

Thanks to the work of those who came before us, like the Youth Development Executives of King County and other partners, we have some understanding of what equitable partnerships look like, and how they support greater change than would be possible with one organization. The YDEKC School and Community Partnership Toolkit uses three categories, Cooperative, Collaborative, and Integrated to describe different types of partnerships.

Across the nine schools, there are many different types of partnerships developing between schools and community partners. We found that there are 10 cooperative partnerships, 7 collaborative partnerships, and 9 integrated partnerships developing

Across partnership types, schools and partners are doing great work. Please see the Executive Summary of the Year 1 Report evaluating the 2018-2019 academic year to learn how partnerships are forming, the changes partnerships seek to make, and what schools, districts, CBOs, and King County staff can do to support their continued growth.

We greatly appreciate the commitment and thoughtfulness of Best Starts for Kids School Partnerships Evaluation Advisors who helped guide this work through all phases of the evaluation. Their guidance has supported an evaluation that is relevant and helpful to those doing partnership work in schools.  We are also grateful to the staff of dozens of awardee and partner organizations who participated in interviews about the Best Starts-supported work in their organizations and schools.  We appreciate the King County and Best Starts for Kids staff who provided helpful background and introductions to awardees, offered feedback on the evaluation, and participated in interviews.

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