|School-business partnerships that provide authentic learning for students have been a well-documented part of our history. This study examined one such educational partnership developed to create a career academy. The purpose of the academy was to prepare students for college and career, and to better equip the future workforce. The study sought to identify facilitating elements of this partnership, to examine the perceived benefits to the participants and organizations, to identify possible avenues of improvement and to design a conceptual framework by which to understand and improve partnerships.
The method of inquiry was a descriptive case study. The population included all participants in the Alabama Power Business Academy at Carroll High School in Ozark, Alabama. Purposeful sampling provided a level of knowledge and information to the topic investigated. Pre-existing evaluation data and documents were combined with study interview and observation data.
Six elements were identified as facilitators of the educational partnership: (a) purposeful planning and flexibility in implementation, (b) shared values and common goals, (c) regular and open communication, (d) commitment, (e) trust, and (f) leadership. These six elements were evaluated on a continuum that includes three partnership types: cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. Benefits perceived by the participants included curricular relevance, increased conversations between students and adults, an enhanced understanding of the world of work, an increase in credential attainment by students, and an increase in the development of essential skills.
The findings of the study were analyzed using the framework created by Barnett, Hall, Berg, and Camarena (2010) and a potential adaptation was proposed. Implications for practice and recommendations for future research were presented.