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Collaborative Practice

Research shows that effective collaborative partnerships in education lead to greater teacher retention and educator empowerment, more effective communication among stakeholders, and an increase in student success, even in high poverty school districts.
Teachers and staff from UCLA Community School meet with UCLA professors Allison Shelley for American Education

Getting Started

Education stakeholders–families, educators, principals, district and state leaders–share a goal: great public schools for every student. But we stumble in implementing change when we don’t have structures that allow everyone to share their experiences and voice. We can change that by identifying and pursuing shared interests and by committing to “starting somewhere” on the path to sustained collaboration. 

The Framework

Not all states, districts, or individual schools will begin at the same starting point, but their paths will all share the same elements, and they can all achieve successful collaboration by assessing where they are and following some basic steps on their collective journey to success.

Collaboration flowchart


The path to successful collaboration includes three phases: Prepare, Act, and Reflect. Depending on their own dynamics each state, district, or school will start at a different point along the path.


Understand the benefits of collaboration (increased student outcomes, educator retention, and association & administration roles in teaching and learning). Then, invite other stakeholders who might be interested in collaborating around student-centered goals. Seek commitment to collaborate.


Build the structures and processes needed to started collaborating. Form working teams (i.e. State partner group, district leadership teams, school leadership teams, working committees) and define— within those teams—how we will do our work and develop outcomes for what we want to accomplish. Determine the support services needed to train and support collaborative teams.


How do we know that we have achieved our goals? In the reflect phase, you will catalog successes and challenges and share lessons-learned with others. This analysis is key to repeating and sustaining our work because each time we cycle through the three phases of our framework, not only do we improve it, but we further embed our tested structures into existing systems. It is our way of creating change in a systemic and sustainable way.

The Guidebook

Collaborating for Student Success guide

The NEA has compiled a guidebook for your use as you set out along your own partnership’s path along the collaboration framework. 

It includes detailed information, best practices, resources, and tools to help establish and organize your partnership and your work. 

You can download the guidebook here. 

The Collaborating for Student Success e-Course

If you’re ready to co-create solutions that benefit students, this course is for you. Our Collaborating for Student Success course can guide you to develop a sustainable system of labor-management collaboration in your district or school. Sign up here:

The National Labor-Management Partnership

The National Labor-Management Partnership includes several national organizations representing a diverse contingent of education stakeholders including teachers, principals, superintendents, and many more.  

We all have a stake in our education system, and together we can raise the bar on student outcomes all while creating a better environment for everyone from educators to administrators. To that end, the National Labor Management Partnership issued a call to action to the education community to foster a culture of learning and joint problem solving in our schools and districts.

Together, as those closest to the students and families, empowered education stakeholders will transform our nation’s public schools. Learn more and read the Call to Action

Collaborating in a Crisis

COVID-19 has put all education stakeholders under enormous stress, as we work to balance learning goals with their families’ health, economic, and social realities.

The only way we succeed is if teachers, principals, board members, and superintendents work collaboratively to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for staff and students.

With our peers in the National Labor Management Partnership, we’ve developed a guide to decision-making on when and how to reopen schools. It includes a structure for creating appropriate task forces and key questions to consider. With this resource and the framework above, we are confident communities can safely and collaboratively serve our students.

We've also published a brief “Collaboration in Action” guide that addresses the topic of safely re-opening school buildings in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

The COVID-19 crisis has taught us we should be prepared, so we also developed a “Quick-Start” Guide that can be used to collaborate in the context of any number of urgent issues.

Storytime at school

Champion Public Schools

Public school parents, families, and supporters are coming together to advocate for the public schools every student deserves.
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.