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Citation:Sanders, M. G., & Lewis, K. C. (2005). Building bridges toward excellence: Community involvement in high schools. High School Journal, Feb/Mar, 1-9.

This study examines the motivations for, and the results of, community partnership development in high schools. Results of three case studies indicated that the high school leaders in the case schools had motivations to develop community partnerships that could be organized into three categories: improving student academic and personal success, enhancing school quality, and supporting community development. In the high schools studied, community partnership activities were developed that reflected each of these motivations. Student success was improved through activities such as scholarships and guest speakers, grants from local businesses helped improve school quality; and community development was supported by activities such as student organization of social events for seniors. The schools were chosen for this study in order to reflect different community contexts and demographics. All three case high schools were members of the National Network of Partnership Schools and their partnership program self-evaluations ranged from good to excellent for at least two consecutive years prior to the study. One high school was large and located in a large city; one was a large suburban school located in a smaller city; and one was a small high school in a rural area. Other high schools that wish to improve their community partnerships are advised to do so by prioritizing the process, expecting the process to be a long-term commitment, and encouraging ownership among community partners. This study is limited in that it evaluated the experiences of only three high schools. While this study provides rich descriptive evidence about the impact of school-community partnerships, further research including randomized controlled trials are needed to examine the motivations for, and the results of, developing community partnerships in a larger sample.

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