IV. Conclusion

The K-12 Outreach Program is poised to meet future challenges at a local and regional level. Through CUOS, the Southeastern Michigan Math-Science Learning Coalition is putting theory into practice by addressing K–12 math and science literacy problems. Innovative partnerships and programs are being created and introduced to schools and community learning centers.

The past few years have been a time of growth and learning for participants in the coalition. We have accomplished enough to have reached conviction that community learning coalitions can, indeed, change our children's learning environment and future prospects for the better. The model involves so many stakeholders and potential resources and possesses so much flexibility that it has the potential for positive results in any setting. A few of the most important lessons we have learned by doing follow.

  1. Volunteer programs cannot work well without regular, paid coordination. There is a limit to how much time and accountability you can expect from volunteers; an effective program absolutely requires an amount and quality of coordination that can only be provided by someone with at least part-time paid and supervised responsibility for it. Volunteers want to feel they are making a difference and, if things are too disorganized to allow that, they won't be back.
  2. Volunteer enterprises will only endure and be effective when the volunteers are acting on their own strong beliefs—which means that they must be filling a role that is natural for them. People can sustain a guilt-induced or philanthropic role only briefly; in order to stick with it, they must feel they are being effective at a job they really care about. Implementation of this philosophy means, for example, that we do not encourage volunteers from the business sector to come to school during the day for reading or tutoring activities. It is not a good time for them, nor is it an application of their particular expertise. Junior Achievement programs, which specifically teach business skills, are more appropriate, as are career exploration activities such as tours and job shadowing. When we find a good fit between task and personal passion, volunteers can be dynamite!
  3. Collaborative programs will only work when all participants are clear about and committed to the roles for their organizations. Good intentions are not enough. Many schools and community centers are eager to capture services and resources for their clientele, but not always ready or able to provide the support, organization, or commitment needed to make new programs work. It is a waste of effort to try to collaborate unless all partners can pull their own weight. In practice, this means that we must be very explicit in the planning stages about objectives and responsibilities and, unfortunately, it also means that we are simply unable to work with some sites.

This evaluation and assessment of progress brings us to the following recommendations and plans for the CUOS K–12 Education Outreach Program:

  1. Continue developing annual strategic plans to define program direction at the broad coalition level as well as for local service sites.
  2. Restructure the Advisory Committee to represent regional stakeholder groups and leaders.
  3. Continue researching and trying to link with other collaborative opportunities within the university, schools, and community.
  4. Continue networking to access additional resources and activities that lead to coalition-building and educational opportunities for all children.

Overall, we feel that our education outreach activities are proceeding very well: what we are doing works. Our aim now is to expand this model to more sites in order to serve more children. While partners we work with have shown great willingness to find funding to continue programs once they have proven their worth, outside start-up funding is critical. In an era of rising needs and shrinking public funding, public schools, in particular, have great difficulty finding money for even the most promising new initiatives. Accordingly, we recently helped write and submit a collaborative proposal to the U.S. Department of Education for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. This ambitious plan includes ten learning community centers in three counties of Southeastern Michigan, building directly upon the model established through the NSF Supplemental Grant and taking advantage of our ability to offer experienced leadership. We are confidant that this funding will help us establish a city-wide program for Pontiac, expanded programs in Ypsilanti sites with whom we already work, and new models in Detroit and in a rural school district between Detroit and Ypsilanti.

CUOS believes the coalition model, with Web-based resources and a focus on direct services for local students, is now a proven one that others may adopt while building upon our experience base.

1998 Progress Report
I. Executive Summary
II. Introduction
  A. The Problem
  B. The Solution
III. Program Implementation
  A. Organization and Management
  B. Systemic Initiatives to Build School-Centered Learning Communities
  C. Coalition Web Site
  D. Reach Out! Student Organization
  E. Math-Science Tutor/Mentoring Programs
  F. Science Outreach Programs
  G. Coalition Building and Stakeholder Development
IV. Conclusion
Appendix A: Coalition Partners List
Appendix B: Web-Site Home Page

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