Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2010

Publication Source

Journal of Thought


The number of partnerships between public schools and private organizations increased dramatically after the National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) issued its report "A Nation at Risk." ... In this essay, I propose an uncommon perspective of public-private partnerships in the United States—one that calls for direct citizen involvement to ensure that collaboration is linked to and compatible with reform efforts carried out at the local (school district) level. The need for a new conceptualization is framed by three convictions: public-private partnerships have been largely ineffective in terms of improving instruction and student learning; democratic deficits in these ventures are incompatible with the concept of local control and potentially detrimental to school reform; and, civic engagement should become a normative standard for shaping, implementing, and evaluating school-improvement initiatives. In building a case for direct citizen involvement, I first examine partnerships in terms of motives, outcomes, and factors influencing success. Then civic engagement is defined and discussed in relation to public-private partnerships operating in the prevailing political environment found in most local school systems. Lastly, recommendations are made for addressing objectionable aspects of public-private partnerships.

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