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Reading and mathematics alliance-building for urban precollegiate and postsecondary ecosystems.

Purpose and Synopsis of Precis

This precis provides a model for alliance-building for reading and mathematics and outlines the sequential steps necessary for successfully negotiating articulation between school districts and universities as a single "urban" ecosystem. The term "urban" is referenced in this precis. The definition by Stone (1998) is applied in this regard as "jurisdictions that are large and old enough to include socially and economically diverse populations. Typically, these are central cities and mature suburbs. Within the broad category of urban communities, recent trends show a greater concentration of poverty and people of color," (p. 3). The most important feature of the primer is its introduction of applicable and practical steps to achieve intra-institutional communication. Although dated from twenty years ago, the authors have imposed a step-by-step process developed by Zenger and Zenger (1982). This process has proven to be effective, succinct, and directly related to the articulation functions of school districts and neighboring universities. As a preface to these steps, the authors recommend another informative set of more recent steps as a subtext to this precis. Dees, Emerson, and Economy (2002) highlight the following for cultivating and continuing community connections:

* Regarding community as assets for building any possible social enterprises;

* Look to communities for their help in identifying needs and areas for improvement;

* Be alert to the fact that an identified need does no necessarily create an opportunity;

* Devise ways that key constituents from communities can see themselves as true resources;

* Work to distribute leadership and decision making among these constituents;

* Negotiate mission and goals at the outset, but remember these need to be readdressed periodically;

* Ensure that ways of evaluating both process and outcomes include community input and participation;

* Maintain communication among key players who in turn stay in touch with their constituents, so that change can be adaptive; and,

* Keep out front the need to agree on desired balance between social reruns and investment and financial gains, (p. 155-156).

This precis was developed for both ecosystem sector faculty and administrators as a resource guide post, and as a result of growing public concern for both sectors to work more collaboratively on behalf of diverse pre-collegiate and postsecondary students. The scope of articulation should include the clarity of educational expectation through the identification of measurable math and reading benchmarks, performance indicators, milestones and the means and methods for faculty to collaborate on pipeline issues during the Alliance-Building and Articulation Process (ABAP). This process is utilized by the collaborating team faculty, as well as the structure designed to achieve "trans" curricular learning outcomes, and is ultimately measured by students success relative to matriculation, recruitment, retention, and graduation persistence in the Pre K-16 ecosystem.

As pointed out by Stevenson (2003)at the 2003 Annual Urban Education Conference at Jackson State University, "Schools should concentrate on academic interventions that have been proven to enhance the student's chances of success. However, students have little impact on the "ecosystem" of the community surrounding the school," (Stevenson, 2003, p. 5). This is the general feeling among many K-12 educators with regard to neighboring universities. Many school educators feel universities are not responsive to local needs. Compounding this dilemma, some have suggested that states are part of the problem and should take a more proactive role in facilitating these alliances on behalf of student consumers. This was more pointally recognized in a recent Stanford Study. Benezia, Kirst, and Antonio (2002) found that states "have created unnecessary and detrimental barriers between high school and college, barriers that are underminding student aspirations" (p. 2).

To achieve this, ABAP should be beyond identifying curriculum compatibility and parallelism in math and reading, and create ways to mitigate against the barriers. This precis provides academic and administrative personnel, as teams, with the opportunity to provide creative and diverse forums for academic inquiry across all disciplinary boundaries. The ABAP objective to matriculate students from the school district through the university, serves as an important role in the growing debate on reading and math literacy. Embedded in the ABAP is the vertical continuum that serves as an essential process for successful continuity of learning progress and success in urban ecosystems, because, as noted over ten years ago, human chance and opportunity are limited without the benefit of education (Gillet-Karam and Roueche, 1991). This is particularly paramount, as frequently as the most compelling trend in higher education is that minority students tend to lose ground at each step throughout the academic pipeline (AACJU, 1988); thus, placing increasing value on school-district-university enrollment management and the practice of systemic ecosystem leadership by educators representing both sectors. Loveless (2001) identifies the general sentiment for the debate over math and reading. He concludes from his observations that "the disagreement in math was largely about 'what' math should be taught. In reading, it was primarily about 'how' reading should be taught" (p. 11). Nonetheless, this precis is not aimed at addressing these areas; rather, the authors propose a collaborative and communicative methodology for bridging gaps and building alliances. Qualitative, theoretical, quantitative and pedagogical issues should depend on needs and demands within the local ecosystem.

Collaboration and Communications

Teaming, collaboration and partnership development are terms used to describe modern management in today's workplace. They are especially important to the initial, ongoing, and closing process of articulation and transfer negotiations in educational settings when there are interdependent stakeholders. The concept of communication, competition and cooperation must be addressed for relationships between the two sectors to prosper and progress (Petterson, 1982). Much of this conceptual framework comes from the community college sector. However, an effective communication checklist to follow might include (Gomez, et al 1990):

1. Have communication strategies been discussed and shared between the two sectors?

2. Is there a clear focus on the information to be communicated, and have appropriate vehicles and viaducts of communication been selected?

3. Has an agenda, timetable, and schedule been structured to include meaningful participation from both sectors?

4. Have appropriate information resources (knowledge management) been targeted, developed, and distributed to both sector teams? (curriculum guides, syllabi, lesson plans, course descriptions, etc.) (p. 117)

Laying the groundwork and preplanning are the ingredients for preparation of ABAP meetings. This includes prior meetings by sector-based teams before the initiation of discussions with the collaborating sectors. These meetings should establish priorities, determine the program scope, identify who should be involved, the resources available, the anticipated time-frame, and the procedures to be followed (Diamond, 1989). Collaborating teams representing each sector should be selected based on the range of expertise (in this case, reading and math) necessary to provide broad-based guidance on curriculum matters and the direction concerning programmatic areas with benchmarks, milestones, and performance indicators. Indeed, as stated by Snow (2002) and the RAND Reading Study Group, "one of the most vexing problems facing middle and secondary school teachers today is that many students come into their classrooms without requisite knowledge, skills, or dispositions to read and comprehend the materials placed before them," (p. iii). Likewise, Burrill (2001) warns, "our students will be shaped by an environment and by experiences we cannot even imagine, and their way of thinking about mathematics will not be limited by the basic context we learned and the role fashion in which most of us learned it," (p. 26). Loveless (2002) reported startling trends in reading and math. He found that fewer states experienced higher reading scores in 2001 compared to 1999, thus creating stagnate achievement. Math gains remain somewhat stagnate. Although there were some gains in problem-solving, geometry and data analysis, basic computation has been flat, with some indication of decline.

A very important element of ABAP is the "commitment" made by both sectors (Adams and Snodgrass, 1990). Some principle questions to pose at the onset of team development might include:

First: Do both institutions have top leadership commitment to the negotiations of an articulation agreement?

Second: Which disciplines have been targeted for articulation and transfer negotiations?

Third: Do both institutions provide the necessary staff release time (particularly faculty) to initiate, negotiable closely, and monitor the articulation agreement?

Fourth: Is the climate for openness and flexibility ready for negotiation?

Fifth: How will the ABAP negotiation process reach closure from inception?

Once these above areas have been addressed to mutual sector satisfaction, the next phase should be followed in the concrete sequential "steps" section of this precis. It should be noted that the guiding forces of collaboration, partnership, and articulation are centered around the mutual benefits to the educational community within the ecosystem. This might include many "systemic" variables like, recruiting and training a qualified workforce (teaching); elevating the educational attainment levels (math and reading) in the community; supporting community-wide goals (economic gain); improving student achievement (higher test scores); improving pipeline enrollments (student retention); revitalizing curriculum and instructional deliveries (modernization); and, influencing educational decisions (policy) in the community at local, state, and national levels (Otterbourg, 1991).

Paramount and pivotal to the communication and collaboration process is utilizing effective communication skills; establishing trust; seeking feedback; concentrating on the task at hand and the outcomes of the negotiations; using techniques to generate ideas and resolving conflict; focusing on team issues versus individual ones; and, establishing a time frame from initiation to closure (Personnel Decisions, Inc., 1986).

The scope and sequence for the development of ABAP for reading and math should parallel the approach typically given to the development of academic program development and implementation in higher education (Seymour, 1988), and curriculum planning in K-12 (Zenger and Zenger, 1982). Generally, this encompasses areas such as the ABAP description, objectives, educational mission, accreditation demands and needs, student outcomes, collaborative faculty for the alliance, sector resources designation, and ABAP financing.

This precis provides a schematic and sequential process for negotiating the basic steps of ABAP. Following this process keeps the negotiating teams on task, and thereby avoids unnecessary delays from foundational inception to full fruition. The objectives of the negotiations should be clearly stated in the initial communications between both the pre-collegiate and postsecondary sectors. Moreover, the relationship of the articulation program to both the college and district mission statements should be well-defined. As appropriate, the need for collaboration could be based on a variety of indicators: demonstrable student demands; potential or future local and regional workforce opportunities; and, the efficient and effective use of fiscal, human, and facility resources. The ABAP should clearly delineate the proposed curriculum that is consistent with both sector's vision, as well as mission statements. This includes pedagogical methods and goals, student outcome-based skills, competencies and knowledge, and the instructional deliveries to be followed and monitored in the ABAP. Providing the pipeline students and the ABAP faculty with useful, timely, and accurate diagnostic-based information concerning the articulating program is imperative. Both the school district and the university should take responsibility and accountability for this obligation. Continuation and matriculation requirements should be consistent with those required by students in both sectors, integrated within the ABAP, and supported with resources. Certification and accreditation requirements, as well as board and state guidelines, must be adhered to during the completion of the ABAP. The collaborating teams of faculty who will be participating in the ABAP should be professionally prepared and have the necessary expertise in reading and math suitable to the teaching, advising, and other activities for which they are responsible. Likewise, the sector CEO of the ABAP should hold the necessary commitment, enthusiasm, and advocacy to support management of the ABAP. Both the collaborating sector teams and the designated lead person should participate in the ongoing evaluation and "developmental" assessment of the ABAP. This should include, but is not limited to, facility resources, achievement of heuristic goals, library and technology resources, adequacy of other resources, faculty development, student advisement and outcomes, and placement of graduates from K-12 to the initial undergraduate experience. The ten steps should be adjusted, and modified as necessary, according to needs, demands, constraints, and resources within the service delivery ecosystem regions, given the diverse characteristics of the environmental venue, and the pre-collegiate and post-secondary student consumers in both sectors served in the ecosystem.

Step One: Establish Teams and Conduct Preplanning

Designate a collaborating faculty/staff team, conduct preplanning activities on both campuses, and distribute a memorandum of "good faith" for achieving the articulation agreement. At this initial step, it is also crucial to follow the aforementioned recommendations for initiating and maintaining effective communication. A working matrix, timetable and calendar for completing the articulation agreement should also be analyzed and finalized by both ecosystem sectors.

Step Two: Determine the Current Status of Articulation

Re-examine the current articulation initiatives at both institutions to determine educational strengths and weaknesses--particularly relative to the extent to which they facilitate students to complete academically sound baccalaureate degrees in a timely and appropriate fashion, (The City University of New York, 1993). This is especially important for the university schools or colleges of education (Stevenson, 2003).

Step Three: Assess Needs and Demands

Conduct a needs assessment based on student demands and needs, failing math and reading benchmarks, low enrollment in certain disciplines or academic programs, local workforce constraints, and faculty ability to provide quality instructional delivery to students. Assessment instruments could include surveys, interviews, program evaluation and action research data, accreditation data, and other district, state, or federal performance records.

Step Four: Determine Goals and Objectives

Determine the ABAP goals and objectives of the proposed articulation agreement. Goals should describe broad general statements for the specific measurable outcomes of the student consumers. Both the goals and the objectives should connect with the respective university and district mission statements and the central educational percepts both promulgate. Preceding this endeavor must be an understanding of both educational philosophies and values to learning, for example, promoting higher order critical thinking, pursuing scientific inquiry, developing lifelong learning, bridging liberal arts and sciences between high school and college, understanding emerging technologies, improving math and reading achievement, fostering multicultural diversity, or learning in the classroom as a microcosm of the workplace. Outcomes might also include behavioral objectives such as demonstrable products from the learning process.

Step Five: Organize the K-16 Curriculum

Plan and organize the K-16 curriculum "rubric" for the proposed articulation agreement by examining the course equivalency guides, teaching requirements, syllabi, and college-specific academic program policies. Here, the deliberation relative to content and pedagogy, general education, curriculum prerequisites, liberal arts and sciences, local, regional, and national test requirements, and upper-division courses must be successfully completed.

Step Six: Target the Fundamental Resources

Determine the resources and constraints of the articulating program, including the designation of qualified academic personnel to deliver the ABAP to student consumers, the securing of funding and fiscal support for the program, the availability of sufficient facilities, equipment and other environmental and/or technological resources for the ABAP, and the resolution of conflicts with methods to overcome barriers and roadblocks to ecosystem success.

Step Seven: Draft the Agreement

Draft the ABAP agreement with the basic components of a typical memorandum of agreement. This includes, but is not limited to, time period of agreement; conditions for student acceptance and matriculation, continuation and graduation; mutual institutional benefits; catalog requirements; provisions for marketing the articulating program; methods for recruiting student consumers, student performance benchmarks, milestones and performance indicators; methods for monitoring programmatic success; conditions for curricular change; enrollment limitations; other initiatives related to training district personnel or placement of university faculty in the district; faculty responsibilities; index of all the courses to be completed by the student consumer in the ABAP; and, space provided for the signature of the chief academic and executive officers.

Step Eight: Charge the ABAP Decision-Making Unit

Establish a joint-institutional ABAP council for monitoring the agreement, creating policy, and evaluating program success. This work-group, perhaps comprised of team members from both institutions, should serve as a "sounding board" to students and faculty; identify changing educational needs in the ecosystem; identify strengths, and weaknesses of the ABAP, while resolving problems that arise; harmonize differences between sector faculty; conduct in-service training; seek support from sectors representing K-12, corporations, foundations, and government; and facilitate overall ecosystem communications. Each ABAP council member's role should be designated concerning academic, practical and technical expertise brought to the group, knowledge of curriculum matters and articulation success, and interpersonal problem-solving or organizational conflict resolution experience.

Step Nine: Implement the ABAP

Implement the curriculum in the ABAP by designating an administrator (preferably a faculty member) to coordinate the ABAP with clearances from both sectors concerning the curriculum budget, facilities, technology, and equipment. The administrator must be well acquainted with the agreement and its contents, and participate in the selection of the faculty who will be affiliated with the ABAP. The faculty should help design university syllabi and district lesson plans based on the systemic goals, objectives and outcomes of the ABAP agreement.

Step Ten: Evaluate the ABAP

Evaluate the ABAP. The evaluation process should be continuous--at the inception, throughout the instructional delivery, and at the completion of the program on a yearly basis. This should be a "constructive" and "formative" process aimed at making improvements as the ABAP vertically progresses. In general, this process should encompass the determination of criteria, identification of data, an analysis of the data, and a "diagnostic" decision-making mechanism to adjust the ABAP as needed. In this regard, it is imperative that the modern methodology of "action research," moving from a traditional ineffective practice, to a new effective practice is considered and applied (Stevenson, 2003).

Methods for Program Evaluation

There are several strategies to monitor and evaluate progress toward the implementation of the ABAP. Most school districts and universities have set policies and procedures to do so. In an era of increased calls for accountability, quality control, and assessment of institutional effectiveness, most institutions--in private and public sectors--have felt the impact of evaluative measures to substantiate their existence with bottom-line results.

Quantitative, as well as qualitative, data must be examined for assessment of the ABAP as the foundation for measurement of the range of relevant outcomes and outputs. The evaluation should address changes in organizational behavior, expectations and attitude, long-term and sustained impacts, immediate measurable effects and outcomes, and procedures to assure (accountability) that evaluation results are available on a continuous basis for both internal and external publics. Periodic progress reports should facilitate the verification of what has been accomplished, what has been the impact on local students, whether timelines have been met, what data are collected (action research), what problems have arisen, what alternative solutions are possible, what adjustments or amendments are necessary, and what assistance is needed (New Jersey State Department of Education, 1992).

In terms of evaluating the articulating ABAP "partnership" itself, Otterbourg (1990) suggests guideposts such as determining how resources are being used; what impact have resources had on student-achievement; how the process is assessed; how ABAP partnership outcomes are assessed; how the ABAP is monitored; how the ABAP has grown; how and what ABAP data are being analyzed; how the ABAP is administered and held accountable; the level of management support provided by both institutions; and an examination of matching the ABAP budget and fiscal planning toward results-oriented pipeline efficacy, efficiency, and effectiveness.


Through intensive collaboration and data driven decision making, well designed partnerships can empower math and reading teachers in urban pre-collegiate and postsecondary ecosystems to create, in their schools, a culture of excellence and high achievement. This alliance-building process will yield maximum results with intra-institutional communication which establishes clarity of educational expectations; identification of measurable math and reading benchmarks and milestones; and, methods for faculty to systematically collaborate on issues, strategies, and practices that are derived from scientifically based research and address the "No Child Left Behind" legislation. Analyses of quantitative and qualitative data gathered from guideposts should yield significant and sustainable results from implementation of the alliance building, single ecosystem.

Reference to the Precis

Adams, D. and Snodgrass, P (1990) A manager's handbook to partnerships Infomedia Inc. Ellenton. P. 19.

American Association of Community and Junior Colleges (1988) Building communities: A vision for a new century, AACJC: Washington, D.C. pp. 1-4 (Futures Commission Brief)

American Association of Community and Junior Colleges. (1998) Minorities in urban community colleges. AACJC: Washington, D.C.

Burrill, G. (2001) "Mathematics Education: The future and the past create a context for today's issues" in The great curriculum debate, Tom Loveless, Editor. The Brookings Institution: Washington, D.C.

City University of New York, The (1993) The chancellor's advisory committee on articulation and transfer. Chancellor's Office: New York pp. 3-9.

Dees, J, Emerson, J. and Economy, P (2002) Strategic tools for social entrepreneurs, John Wiley and Sons: New York.

Diamond, R. (1989) Designing and improving, courses and curricula in higher education. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco pp. 104-105.

Gillett-Karum, R and Roueche, S and Roueche, J (1991) Underpresentation and the question of diversity the Community College Press AACJC: Washington, D.C.p. ix.

Gomez, M., Bissell, J., Danziger, L. and Cassellman, R. (1990) To advance learning: a handbook on developing k-12 postsecondary partnerships University Press of America: New York, pp. 117-136.

Loveless, T. (2002) The 2002 Brown center report on american education: how are american students learning Brookings Institution: Washington, D.C.

Loveless, T. (2001) The great curriculum debate: how should we teach reading and math, The Brookings Institution: Washington, DC.

New Jersey Department of Higher Education (1992) Improving student outcomes: guidelines for developing, implementing verifying, and evaluating educational improvement plans, New Jersey Department of Higher Education: Trenton, pp. 5-36.

New Jersey Department of Higher Education (1988) Standards and guidelines for the development of new academic programs. New Jersey Department of Higher Education: Trenton, pp. 5-13.

Otterbourg, S. (1990) "Managing the monitoring and evaluation process", in How to monitor and evaluate partnerships InfoMedia Inc.: Ellentown, pp. 9-10.

Personnel Decisions, Inc. (1986) Successful manager's handbook Personnel Decisions Inc.: Minneapolis, pp. 126-129.

Petterson, J. (1982) "Community college and proprietary school relationships within the educational marketplace." In Improving articulation and transfer relationships F. Kintzer Ed. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, pp. 55-59.

Rand Reading Study Group (2002) Reading for understanding: toward and r&d program in reading comprehension Catherine Snow, Chair. Rand Education, Santa Monica, CA.

Seymour, D. (1988) Developing academic program: the climate for innovation, ASHE-ERIC/George Washington University: Washington, D.C. pp. 99-100.

Stevenson, J. (2003) "Incessant connections between research, propaganda, and prevailing views of education in our society," Annual Urban Education Conference, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS.

Stone, C., (1998) Changing urban education, University Press of Kansas, Kansas.

Venezia, A. Kirst, M. and Antonio, A. (2002) Betraying the college dream: How disconnected k-12 and postsecondary education systems undermine student aspirations. Final Policy Report from Stanford University's Bridge Project: Pal Alto, CA.

Zenger, W. and Zenger, S. (1982) Curriculum planning: A ten step process R & E Research Associates, Inc.,: Palo Alto, pp. 3-80.

The authors wish to acknowledge and thank Ms. Abby Sharpe for the editing of this manuscript.


Acting Dean and Provost



Curriculum and Instruction


Associate Dean

School of Instructional Leadership

College of Education and Human Development

Jackson State University
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Author:Stevenson, Joseph Martin; Rollins-Searcy, Ruth; Taylor, Vivian
Publication:Reading Improvement
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2004
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