Evaluating the impacts of partnership: an electronic panel study of partnering and the potential for adaptive management
Waschak, Michael R.
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There has been an increase in the use of partnerships as a policy prescription for improving education since the mid 1980's. This trend builds on nearly a century of reform movements in education. In order to improve education policy, this study focuses on the question of whether math and science education partnerships as typically constituted provide the necessary conditions for the adaptive management (sustainable and adaptable action) of local education problems by the participants. This qualitative study uses data derived from the views of 32 experts on math and science partnerships collected during an internet-based application of the Delphi methodology designed to develop testable elements of a logic model of partnerships in math and science education. The results of this study suggest that the implementation and content requirements built into grant programs that include partners as a condition in aid most often result in a narrow programmatic focus among the participants. Organizations choose to participate in disjointed serial interventions that support organizational needs or goals based on the availability of funding and partners for particular programmatic activities. They choose partners from among those who are interested in similar or complementary activities. The primary focus of STEM education partnerships is therefore on implementing and sometimes evaluating the funded programmatic activities and not on building a broader learning community. Activities or education problems that are not funded tend to be excluded from the activities and dialog of the policy-induced partnership. By limiting the scope of the collaboration we are limiting the potential for adaptive management and the value of these partnerships.