Initial curators: Gavin Luter


K-12 / Higher Education partnerships are perhaps the most pervasive form of community partnerships in higher education. In the early 1900s, for instance, educational philosopher John Dewey created laboratory schools at the University of Chicago as a place for pre-service teachers to learn teaching by actually doing it. For many years, universities have placed (and continue to place) pre-service teachers in classrooms across the United States. A call for increased university involvement grew out of the concerns raised by the A Nation at Risk report (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) and the subsequent Holmes Group Report (1986), which specifically called attention to the need for improved teacher preparation. Over the last 30 years, K-12 partnerships with higher education have expanded to many different areas that are discussed in this knowledge hub. Holmes Group. (1986). Tomorrow’s teachers: A report of the Holmes Group. East Lansing, MI: Author. National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983). A Nation at Risk. Washington, DC: United States Department of Education.

Key resources



B) MODELS OF K-12 / HIGHER EDUCATION PARTNERSHIPS (not always driven by a community engagement framework)

1. University-School-Community Partnerships for School Improvement (urban school emphasis) Literature:


2. Curriculum or instructional reform / comprehensive school reform Literature:


3. Improve school leadership, such as principal preparation or leadership development Literature:

Organizations / Efforts:

4. Teacher preparation, professional development, professional development schools Literature:


5. Central office improvement Literature:


6. Research endeavors of interest to school systems Literature:


7. College access Literature:


8. Extended learning time and enrichment Literature:


9. Support Services Literature:



For institutions looking to deepen their involvement with K-12 education, several organizations may be helpful in deepening this work:


Many different universities have established programs and nascent efforts to connect with K-12 schools.  Here is a short list of institutions who have attempted to take this work to the institutionalization level:

Other Useful Information

  • Internal vs External-to-School Reform Models: There is a difference (even a tension) in approaches to improving schools.  Should it be done from within the school (eg. Focus on curriculum / teacher / leadership reform)? Or should the reform efforts try to address external factors that impact school performance (e.g. neighborhood factors, such as housing, health, and crime/safety)? Universities have been involved in both kinds.  Models of comprehensive school reform mentioned above are associated with reforming internal-to-school factors (e.g. Talent Development and Success for All).  The university-assisted community schools (UACS) and universities involved with the Promise Neighborhood approaches have been increasingly trying to tackle the external-to-school factors. See Brighouse & Schouten (2011) and Luter (2015) for more information.
  • Service-Learning Across K-12 and Higher Education Contexts: Campus Compact and the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) have both been interested in advancing the community engagement framework in higher education and K-12 institutions, respectively.  K-12 partnerships often overlap with other content areas, such as environmental sustainability (see Campus Compact Knowledge Hub on Sustainability Education and Civic Engagement, curated by Kim Coleman)