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Painting three pictures of collaboration.


This paper describes three very different examples of collaboration. Each is dependent upon committed community volunteers. Results indicate students in schools receiving services from the Picture Person Art Program outperformed other students on standardized tests during school years 2000-2001 and 2001-2002. The second example of collaboration involves a chorus supported by a large urban church and local elementary school. In the third example stakeholders developed a soccer league as a means of providing services to underserved students. Factors important to success are described.

Painting a Picture of Collaboration with Three Projects

Project Apple Seed is a national campaign for public school improvement through increased parent involvement (Project Apple Seed, 2004). Among other things, this organization publishes research related to the effectiveness of volunteer efforts. Recognizing that not all communities provide equal levels of parent support for local schools, they include the following quote from the National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at the Southwest Educational Laboratory (Project Apple Seed, 2004). " Myth #4: The key actors in parent involvement are the teacher, parents or family, and the student. Meaningful and successful parent involvement is not limited to partnerships between parents and teachers." This paper describes three volunteer projects that are the results of collaboration between a local church, city park district, museum, and primary school. Although parents are critical in guaranteeing the success of each of these projects, the projects have been created by and are maintained by community stakeholders. The Picture Person Art Program is a collaborative effort between local schools and The Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences. Established in 1966, it is unique in its successful 37-year history of dependence upon parent volunteer efforts. The community chorus investigation included 106 children in grades 2, 3, and 4. They were located at an elementary school in a low socioeconomic urban community, in the Midwest. The school choir was 4 weeks old at the time of this study. Its members had met for 2 hours one time a week to practice, and it was being lead by a local church music director. Like the arts, athletics offer many students opportunities to experience success outside traditional academics. In terms of the development of a local soccer league, church volunteers were actively participating in a mentoring/tutoring program with individually assigned students at an elementary school. However, summer presented a lapse in these relationships. Volunteers wanted to continue contact with their students after the school year ended and after students matriculated to the area middle school. The question presented was "How do we maintain our relationships?"


The Person Program is unique because in its 37-year history it has been entirely dependent upon parent volunteers who bring monthly art lessons to classrooms throughout the region (see Table 1). The usual procedure involves a discussion of an important artist and review of his/her work, with a hands-on related art experience to follow. Artists and their works represent diverse backgrounds and approaches to the visual arts. Volunteer site coordinators transport prints and artist profile materials from Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences to specific schools. A schedule informs volunteers of the artists to be covered each month by grade level. A Picture Person manual is provided to each volunteer. It includes information on the major art movements, art in the context of important historical events, and basic background information on each of the artists in the collection. Volunteers need only review a short folder of biographical data and request art materials from the school to conduct an effective and academically supportive project for students. Training for volunteers is provided by Lakeview Museum at the beginning of each school year.


Picture Person Art Program

Sixty-nine schools were included in the study. Of these, 33 were included in the experimental group and 36 comprised the matched comparison group (see Table 2). Schools included in the experimental group had been involved in the Picture Person Art Program for at least five years. The comparison group had not been involved in the Picture Person Art Program and was matched to the experimental group by county, race, attendance rate, size of total enrollment, class size, minutes devoted to teaching specific subject areas, and parent contact. All schools included in the study had student populations who completed the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) during the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 school years. The ISAT is administered annually to students in grades 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8. Students in grades 3, 5, and 8 are evaluated in the areas of reading, mathematics, and writing. Science and social sciences skills are assessed in grades 4 and 7. The statewide-standardized test is aligned to the Illinois Learning Standards (Illinois State Board of Education, 2004). School demographic information and ISAT scores were collected from the Illinois Department of Education, Illinois School Report Cards, Picture Person Art Program data were shared by Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences in Peoria, Illinois. Anecdotal materials were available through informal interviews with teachers, parents, and students involved in the art program. This study utilized a quasi-experimental design with an experimental group and a matched comparison group constructed after and during presentation of the intervention. Multivariate and univariate analysis of variance procedures were used to compare group ISAT score means across specific content areas and overall performance.

Irving School Choir/Morton Square Singers

This investigation included 106 children in grades 2, 3, and 4. They were located at an elementary school in a low socioeconomic urban community, in the Midwest. Thirty students had recently chosen to participate in the newly formed school chorus, while 76 children were not involved in chorus. Females numbered 63, and males 43, with 45 students in grade 2, 43 in grade 3, and 18 children from the fourth grade. Tables 3 and 4 contain the number of learners who have joined choir, by gender and grade. Five males and 25 females had enrolled in choir, while 9 chorus members were in grade 2, 17 in grade 3, and 4 chorus students were in the fourth grade. The school choir was 4 weeks old at the time of this study, its members had met for 2 hours one time a week to practice, and it was being lead by a local church music director. Participants were administered a revised version of the Quality of School Life Survey (Williams & Batten, 1981). The survey measures students' perceptions of their school environment and activities. Test adaptations were necessary to align the instrument with the developmental level and interest of participants (see Table 5 for list of items). See issue's website <>

The questions were limited to 25 items and four different "happy" typefaces were included to describe levels of agreement with each statement (see Figure 1). Each student was asked to circle the face that best described the extent to which he/she believed an item was accurately self-descriptive. The sad face corresponded with "not true", while the happiest face illustrated "very true". A higher score indicates a higher level of disagreement, internal consistency reliability of the revised scale was sufficient for the purposes of this study, alpha = .887. Students were offered an opportunity to join a newly established school chorus. Any child in grades 2-4 who was interested in choir was permitted to join. Approximately 4 weeks later, the survey was group administered to all learners in the students' classrooms over a period of one school day. Classrooms contained subjects involved in choir and those in a comparison group. A test administrator read each item orally to the learners and waited while students wrote their responses before continuing. Approximately 30 minutes were required to complete the survey. Materials were collected upon completion and reviewed for completeness. Multivariate (MANOVA) and univariate (ANOVA) analysis of variance procedures were used to compare the overall and individual responses of learners by involvement in chorus and gender. A profile of students by choir status and gender is presented and discussed (see Table 5). See issue's website <>

Morton Square Soccer League

Church volunteers were actively participating in a mentoring/tutoring program with individually assigned students at Irving Primary School. However, summer presented a lapse in these relationships. Volunteers wanted to continue contact with their students after the school year ended and after students matriculated to the area middle school. The question presented was "How do we maintain our relationships?" A volunteer observed unused soccer style goal posts mounted in the neighborhood Morton Square Park. Discussions with city park district administrators indicated children in the Irving School area specifically did not participate in an organized soccer program. A large parent sponsored soccer league existed in the fall and spring, but was not included on a location with access to a bus route. As a result, Irving School area children lacked transportation and thus an opportunity to participate in such a program. Church volunteers determined a soccer league could be a viable means for continuing important relationships with their individual students. They considered it crucial that the league be located within the Irving community. In summer 2000 the league began. The local park district was contacted and agreed to partner by providing preparation (e.g., striping) and maintenance of the Morton Square Park fields, balls, shin guards, and officials for games. Six different colors of pull-overs and some shoes were available through donations. Recruitment of participants consisted of sending notes home with Irving School students. Parents and others were given the specific date and time for sign ups and were told to meet at Morton Square Park. Refreshments seemed popular and were available to anyone who wanted them. Sign ups began relatively slow although many people attended the first sign up meeting. Most of those attending initially chose to observe rather than sign up, but gradually the number of participants grew to approximately 100 children during the first year. The first year children ranged from 7 to 10 years of age to create a co-ed team. Players were grouped to form teams equivalent in skills, maturity, and gender. Every child was guaranteed an opportunity to play and officials modified the rules significantly. Most importantly, officials agreed to coach and tutor children as the game was played.


Picture Person Art Program

Students in schools receiving services from the Picture Person Art Program outperformed other students on the ISAT during school years 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 (see Table 6). See issue's website < > A comparison of content area scores seems to indicate third graders involved in the Picture Person Art Program achieved significantly higher reading and math test scores than third graders in the comparison group. Science and Social Sciences scores were significantly higher for seventh graders in the experimental group than for those in the comparison group. Other significant differences in reading were indicated between students in grade eight.

Table 7 charts the results of satisfaction interviews with 235 students during the 2002-2003 school year. A high score of 5 was indicated by 155 of the students, while lower ratings tended to occur when presentations were irregularly scheduled. Picture Person volunteers were described as "wonderful", "fantastic ladies", "well-prepared", "enthusiastic", and "knowledgeable". Participants stated that the volunteers "held the students' interests, asked pertinent questions, and stimulated the students' interest". The program was described as being a "terrific opportunity for the students", "educational", % worthwhile experience", "beneficial", and "a valuable program that opened the eyes of students". Most teachers referred to their respective volunteers by name. In summary, the program seems valued by those communities involved (see Table 7). See website <>

The following list describes factors that may be helpful to those wishing to replicate this program.

* Volunteers, particularly those who were beginners to the program, appreciated specific examples of art activities for each artist.

* The school art teacher can provide a list of materials available to volunteers.

* A procedure for notifying the school art teacher when materials will be needed may allow the school art teacher to have the materials organized and prepared for volunteers prior to each program.

* Folders may be prepared for each monthly artist. The folders can contain important background information on each artist and his/her work and other suggestions.

* Folders may be filed alphabetically, stored in a convenient location within the school, and available for check out as needed.

* The program may benefit from a designated coordinated who agrees to transport art prints from the museum to the local school(s) each month. This person also functions to coordinate training and supervise an annual student art exhibit at the end of each school year.

* A variety of artists and artwork are important in presenting diversity of cultures, backgrounds, and lifestyles.

* Experienced volunteers may coordinate their presentations with the regular content being covered by the classroom teacher. Linking the visual arts to core academic lessons may be an added benefit of this program.

* Volunteers may be most comfortable with traditional works of art. Materials that clearly explain contemporary work increase the probability that diverse pieces will be included in the program.

* Experienced volunteers seemed to group themselves into grade level teams. Each volunteer rotated his/her role as primary and supporting presenter. Some teams organized all grade level classes into a single day of presentations and shared responsibilities.

* Some individual classes were represented by small groups of volunteers who rotated roles monthly.

* Volunteers preferred to work with the classrooms that contained their own children.

* Teachers with traditional school calendars found the months of December and January to be fully scheduled and often not available for the art program. The same was true for those months involving district or statewide testing programs.

* Teachers who remained in the classroom during the presentation and activity often provided helpful behavioral monitoring and were able to relate the artwork to other classroom experiences.

Irving School Choir/Morton Square Singers

As can be seen in Table 8, there was a significant main effect for Choir membership, F (25, 106) = 1.15, (eta squared = .27) and for Gender, F (25, 106) = 1.10, (eta squared = .26). A significant interaction of Choir x Gender was also observed, F (25, 106)-1.08, (eta squared = .26). Univariate results, illustrated in Table 9, indicate significant differences between Choir membership groups on item 6 of the survey. Reponses to item 6 suggest that non-choir students are significantly more likely than choir students to disagree with the statement, "School is a place where I like to go to learn", F (1, 102) = 3.79, (p = .05). Significant gender differences were found on item 11, "School is a place where I can do a lot of things", F (1, 102) = 7.02, (p = .01), an item males responded to most negatively. Mean responses for each item are reported in Tables 10 and 11, organized by choir and gender. A higher mean reflects a greater level of disagreement with the respective item. A review of means seems to suggest the sample involved in this study was likely to disagree with the statement "kids don't pick on each other all the time". Those involved in chorus seemed particularly less likely than other students to agree that school was a place where "kids don't pick on each other all the time", and "everyone knows how smart I am." Students who were not involved in choir may be most likely to disagree with "I feel safe,", "my teachers like me", "I can get along with most of the kids even though they may not be my friends", "I learn things that will help me when I grow up", "teachers help me to do my best", and "I am proud of what I do" Factors important to the success of this choir program include the following items.

* Clearly established goals must be defined. For example, one goal of this program is to entertain audiences rather than function competitively.

* Organizations, such as churches, may find it important to balance the goals of their own groups with the needs of the students and communities involved in choir.

* Van drivers and chaperones are critical during rehearsals, performances, and other activities.

* Children should have input into selecting musical pieces for performance. Although Amazing Grace was the favorite song of children in this specific choir, it was not typically the choir's strongest performance piece.

* Rehearsals, performances, and other activities should include snacks provided by volunteers.

* Performance venues should include a variety of audiences. This choir has performed in major hotels factories, summer camps, and many other sites. Their audiences have included, for example, local politicians, police officers, homeless citizens, farmers, and factory workers.

* School site support is critical. Schools can provide a place for rehearsals, equipment such as a piano, and transportation on an after-school activities bus. School administrators may agree to duplicate and send notes home to parents, include choir activities in morning school announcements, and provide other ideas addressing concerns such as activities requiring parental consent.

* Expectations for behavior involving choir should be consistent with and reinforced during the regular school day. For example, students behaving inappropriately at choir may experience the same consequences they would encounter had they acted out in a classroom.

* The school site provides a particular level of increased credibility for the choir program. For example, parents seem less concerned permitting their children to participate in a choir that is represented by their local school.

* Morton Square Soccer League

* Some of the factors most important to the league's four years of success have been learned through experience. Those who wish to replicate this program may find the following information helpful.

* Sign ups were attempted through the school. Students carried announcements home and were asked to return completed forms to school. However, most participants did not sign up until they had observed the practices at Morton Square Field.

* The female soccer team from a local high school performed a demonstration during an Irving School assembly. Their simulated games introduced the game of soccer and increased its status among students.

* Buddy mentors were contacted by the Church and were encouraged to attend the soccer games.

* The soccer league was very visible in the community and other publicity was not necessary.

* Children did not have the resources for soccer shoes and socks. Significant numbers of donations were necessary to prepare all the children to play.

* Given the limited resources of many families, fundraising efforts within the neighborhood were not effective.

* There was a very weak parent support base in the community, thus church volunteers were critical to the success of the project.

* Church volunteers collected and laundered all uniforms between games.

* Participants changed clothes into their uniforms at each game and returned the uniforms after each game.

* If taken from the park, it was unlikely that shoes and other soccer equipment would be returned. Volunteers found it necessary to develop a check in and check out procedure for all shoes, socks, and other necessary items.

* Refreshments were popular and consumed by many not directly involved in the soccer league. For economic reasons volunteers discovered it was important to restrict the use of refreshments to the players, and when possible to other children in their families.

* A liability form was an important source of protection for the program, however verifying the identity of parents or caregivers was impossible.

* Families whose native language was not English needed language support. Sometimes the children in these families served as translators.

* Approximately 80% of those who sign up show up for any given game.

* Teams typically became imbalanced on game day. One team may have members, while another may have only one show up. Players eventually understood they would be shuffled to balance the teams when necessary.

* Those who showed up to play wanted to play the entire game.

* A weekday evening was necessary for game night to facilitate the recruitment of high school and college students as coaches.

* To keep the ratio of coaches to students at 6:1, 2-3 coaches were necessary for each team.

* Keeping score was a distraction that interfered with teaching teamwork and soccer rules.

* The local park district was important in assisting with crowd control.

* Local law enforcement supported the efforts of the soccer league by cruising by the Park during practice and games.

* Uncovered expenses were approximately $500 annually.


With limited resources, effective means of utilizing parent supports and increasing students' investment in learning to increase achievement becomes critical. Each of the programs described in this paper are economically and logistically feasible option for many districts and community stakeholders. They seem to have obtained the "grass roots" commitment of parents, teachers and students. The duration of the Picture Person Program may be one of the strongest indicators of its influence. The rapid growth and popularity of the chorus and soccer league seem to suggest they too will be program of long duration. Ongoing studies of each program's relationship with increased academic performance may objectively provide the type of empirical evidence needed to argue for further study, and perhaps expansion, of these collaborative projects.


Illinois State Board of Education (2004). Illinois Standards Achievement Tests. Springfield, IL: Illinois State Board of Education,

Project Apple Seed (2004). The four myths of parent involvement in schools. National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, Appleseed Today,

Williams, T., & Batten, M. (1981). The quality of school life. Hawthorn, Victoria.: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Sloan earned her Ph.D. in School Psychology at the University of Kentucky. Her research interests include authentic education and juvenile sex offenders.
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Title Annotation:examples of collaboration
Author:Sloan, Mindy
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Date:Sep 22, 2004
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