Frequently asked questions


The mission of the National Center for School-University Partnerships at the University of Mississippi is to foster a collaborative and inclusive community dedicated to empowering educators, leaders, and institutions to advance equity, access, and high-quality learning experiences for all students. Through improvement partnerships, professional development, and practice-based evidence, we strive to dismantle disparities and create a more just and equitable educational system. The National Center builds upon the work of the Carnegie Foundation’s Improvement Leadership Education and Development network.

National Center members include any K-12 school or district, higher education institution, or youth-serving organization interested in partnering with others to solve shared educational equity-related problems of practice (e.g., chronic absenteeism).

Institutions interested in becoming a member of the National Center will be invoiced an annual fee of $2,500 by the University of Mississippi. This fee covers the cost of five improvement team members per institution (see below for more information about improvement teams).

Members of the National Center will have opportunities to collaborate with others to address shared problems; participate in improvement-oriented professional development and coaching; and build relationships with colleagues across the country. Members receive:

  • Invitations to 4-6 convenings per year (members will be responsible for their travel and accommodations to in-person convenings)
  • Introductory improvement science online training and onboarding to the breakthrough collaborative (see below for more information about breakthrough collaboratives)
  • Periodic online coaching calls to support improvement efforts (Tier 2)
  • A change package (a documented collection of successful interventions and techniques)

Yes. The National Center will assist members in forming meaningful partnerships and collaborations.

Any K-12 school or district, higher education institution, or youth-serving organization interested in becoming a member of the National Center for the 2023-24 school year must complete an application. Once the application is complete, you will receive an automated email with a link for payment. If you need an invoice, please reach out to our email at

Breakthrough Collaborative

According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a breakthrough collaborative is a structured and intensive improvement initiative that brings together teams from multiple organizations to achieve a common goal. A breakthrough collaborative aims to accelerate the pace of improvement by sharing knowledge, experiences, and best practices among the participating teams.

The National Center will launch its first 12-month breakthrough collaborative on January 26th 2024. The National Center will convene members of the breakthrough collaborative on a regular basis throughout the year (approximately 4-6 times) to consolidate and share learning. In between these convenings, members are expected to conduct, collect, and share information on their plan-do-study-act (PDSA) test cycles of different change ideas. The National Center will assign improvement coaches to help members advance their efforts.

Breakthrough collaborative members are expected to:

  • attend all convenings (in-person and online) and participate in onboarding training
  • participate in all coaching calls
  • plan, conduct, and collect information on a number of PDSA cycles per action period
  • upload their data and document their ongoing learning

commit to sharing and making their learning visible with the rest of the community

  • Reduce chronic absenteeism rates across our institutions by XXX% within one year
  • The mathematics proficiency rate of students with disabilities will increase by 5% according to the MS Mathematics state assessment by the end of the 23-24 school year.

Improvement Teams and Professional Support

Improvement teams have distinct characteristics. They:

  • Come together to solve specific problems (e.g., improving 3rd grade reading scores)
  • Are committed to learning, and have the necessary and complementary skillset to make progress on the problem of practice they want to solve
  • Are disciplined by the use of improvement science tools and methods
  • Hold themselves accountable to advance their team’s learning and stated goals

While improvement teams might differ per institution, they’re generally made up of the following people:

  • A team sponsor who commissions the improvement work; they provide the conditions necessary for the team to succeed.
  • A team lead who is the point person for the team and who takes responsibility for orchestrating the activities of the team
  • An improvement coach who helps and coaches the team in the use of improvement science tools and approaches
  • A data analyst who is an expert on the use of data; data visualizations; and who may have access to important data sources to help the team achieve its stated goals
  • Team members who diligently carry out the work including PDSA test cycles; these members have direct insight into the work processes that are the object of change in the improvement project (e.g., classroom teachers)

While improvement teams can vary in size, they typically range between 5-10 members (see above).

New improvement teams joining the National Center will receive a brief online introductory course on improvement science methods and tools. Those joining the breakthrough collaborative will also receive additional onboarding so that they are clear on the structure and expectations of the breakthrough collaborative. In addition, each improvement team will be assigned an improvement coach to support their local efforts. This coach will work with each  team to schedule periodic check-in calls to ensure their steady progress. Throughout the year, National Center members will have opportunities to further their improvement knowledge through webinars, workshops, convenings, and book study groups, among other means. Resources to support improvement efforts will be curated and made available on the National Center website.

For further questions and more information, please contact

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