Three Lessons From Public-Private Partnerships in Education

By Lori McFarling, President of Corporate & Community Partnerships, Discovery Education

SOURCE: Discovery Education


Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 90% of K-12 students transitioned to remote learning, with many participating in some type of hybrid model. While school districts continue to explore and implement ways to adapt to the  new educational environment, collective community partnerships prove an essential ingredient in the work to maintain continuity of learning for all students.

Recent research reveals that during this time of unprecedented turbulence,  businesses are expected to step up and help address our most pressing challenges. Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer reflects a widespread desire for institutions to partner with one another to find a common purpose and take collective action to solve societal problems. The public’s growing trust of business comes with a clear expectation that our corporate leaders will apply the same strategy, rigor, and commitment to societal engagement as they do towards delivering corporate results.

In early May, Discovery Education convened thought leaders from the business and education communities in a virtual summit designed to explore the state of education today and the role corporate leaders can play in bolstering societal outcomes. Speakers from the Aspen Institute, AstraZeneca, Boeing, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Salesforce, the Siemens Foundation, and others shared their insights and engaged the corporate leaders in attendance in a dialog about the ways public-private partnerships can effectively support education. Here’s what we learned:

Invest locally with global context.
If COVID-19 taught nothing else, we learned that teaching and learning goes beyond the walls of a classroom. Corporate and community responses to the evolving needs of educators and students resulting from this new reality requires attention to context and connection to the world at large.

If you want to hire a workforce from the community, help develop the requisite talent. Start by fostering dialogue and listening deeply. Building partnerships that are grounded in community needs, reflective of global realities, and that engage our youngest of learners is critical.

Talent development and long-term partnership go hand-in-hand. According to Gene Pinkard, Assistant Director of Practice and Leadership at The Aspen Institute: “When we think about the long-term investment, we have to start talent development earlier. We are at this pivotal stage where we can ask questions and be intentional about interrogating the current system.”

Preparing learners for tomorrow means connecting students to engaging real-world experiences that ignite curiosity and build the skills necessary for global competitiveness. Prioritizing and then scaling equitable access to these experiences is imperative to creating pathways for students’ post-secondary success.

Organizations and communities must come together to address skill development and workforce readiness while focusing on diversity and inclusion and holding each other accountable for bringing about change. Leveraging the power of digital content by engaging locally with an international focus, like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, invites collaboration and inclusive thinking, connects students and prepares them for the world of work.

Shift the equity narrative by focusing on inclusivity.
Building an education system that pays life-long dividends for individuals and communities alike requires equity. At its heart, the challenge of equity is not with the students themselves, but the historically exclusionary systems in which they learn.

The murder of George Floyd and subsequent social activism combined with the multiple and overlapping challenges wrought by COVID-19 starkly illuminated the fact that many U.S. systems are plagued by fundamental injustices. There are currently 11.9 million children living in poverty in the United States, 75% of whom are children of color. Food insecurity, a lack of internet connectivity, and a deficit of learning devices are just of few of the challenges low-income students may face. While these complex dynamics are not new, they are more intensely exposed during a global crisis and social reckoning.

We need to, especially in education, better connect the dots between the inequities causing disparities. Equity requires doing more for those who are historically and systemically disadvantaged.

Corporations play a critical role in equity. In the words of Dr. Lesli Myers-Small, Superintendent at the Rochester City School District of New York: “We need corporations to lean in to help make sure that ALL voices are reflected, and we are providing culturally relevant experiences for each student.” 

Culturally responsive teaching is foundational to successful, inclusive learning environments. At the end of the day, inclusion is about collaboration. Industry leaders can use the power of their platform and influence of their bottom line to transition communities towards inclusivity. Set a new table with new expectations: require unconscious bias training, center diversity, equity, and inclusion at the heart of your mission, and focus on your community through education. Education grounded in access, diversity, and inclusion helps communities thrive.

Hone in on social-emotional learning as a power skill.
Youth mental health and ‘soft’ skill development are now primary priorities for education systems. Students dealing with the challenges of the pandemic and social change have had their ability to thrive tested like never before.

Integration of social-emotional learning (SEL) into lessons and school culture supports the whole student through personal and collective empowerment. More than two decades of research shows that SEL can help young people develop social responsibility, practice leadership, and gain personal and social skills.

As global citizens, students and teachers experience milestone moments in the world every day – both the good and bad. They need resources that support development of self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills. With these ‘power’ skills activated at all levels of education, kids become responsible members of society with an innately integrated sense of identity to the community.

Partnerships in education do make a difference. From the insight of Laura Frevelletti, Senior Program Officer at The Allstate Foundation: “We are helping in the development of people who care about others. Everyone wins in this scenario.”

Not only is SEL good for the student and society, it’s also good for the bottom line: research from Columbia University shows a 11:1 return on investment for SEL supports. It’s critical that public-private partnerships develop strategies to better build educator capacity in this area and help students create connections that will lead to academic success, now and in the future.

Reflecting on the past year, it’s evident that real progress requires the private and public sectors to collaborate and redesign and re-align strategies for lasting impact. Together, we can all champion an education system that withstands the unexpected in a way that builds deep and lasting connections with a global mindset in local communities. As education stakeholders and companies collaborate to drive innovation and evolve, together they are also helping to redefine possibilities in in teaching and learning. If done right, education can and will serve as a point of unity and critical growth, a pivot point for society.

Discovery Education prepares learners for tomorrow by creating innovative classrooms connected to today’s world, bridging the gap between education and industry to foster growth. Join us.

KEYWORDS: NYSE:DISCA, public-private partnerships, discovery education, Social-emotional learning

Data & News supplied by
Stock quotes supplied by Barchart
Quotes delayed at least 20 minutes.
By accessing this page, you agree to the following
Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.