Teachers College Community School (TCCS)

A National Model for Community Schools and University–Public School Partnership

Imagine a racially and ethnically diverse inner-city public school . . . where children get violin and swimming lessons, learn computer coding, meet astronauts, visit university science labs, and learn about nutrition by planting fruits and vegetables . . . where courses are shaped by the nation’s leading education experts . . .  and where children are screened and helped onsite to serve their physical and emotional health needs.

Eight years ago, leaders at Teachers College sat down with residents of the Manhattanville section of Harlem to imagine just such a school. The College had several goals in mind:

  • First, to serve and strengthen the community. “As neighbors with Harlem, we have the responsibility to work with our community,” said TC President Susan Fuhrman, who believes that excellent public schools lie at the heart of thriving communities.
  • Second, to demonstrate that “the cutting-edge knowledge that we have here can be infused into regular public education,” says Dr. Nancy Streim, TC’s Associate Vice President for School & Community Partnerships.
  • And third, to demonstrate that universities in general, and education schools in particular, are natural partners for local public schools. “With graduate students in social work, education and other areas, we can cost-effectively provide the wrap-around services schools need,” says Fuhrman. “TCCS, and Teachers College in general, are demonstration sites for the future of education in this country. Can you imagine the improvement we would see in public education in America if every university worked in concert with local schools and communities?”

Eight years later, Teachers College Community School (TCCS) has emerged as a national model for community schools and university–public school partnership. Since 2011, TC and Columbia together have provided TCCS with more than $5 million in supplemental funding for curriculum, staff development, after-school programs, and much more. The school has received generous support from Enid and Lester S. Morse Jr., E. John Rosenwald Jr., Laurie M. Tisch, and Susan Bram.

TCCS looks remarkably like what its planners envisioned. It is robustly diverse: 39 percent of its students are African American, 25 percent are Hispanic, 22 percent are white, 7 percent are Asian, and 6 percent are multiracial. It offers a dynamic learning environment, reflecting the input of TC faculty who offer the best research and teaching in math, science, music, psychology, nutrition, reading and writing, physical education, art and other fields. Half of the classroom teachers are TC alumni. They are supported by TC student teachers, who every day put into practice the effective teaching methods they learn from our faculty. TC students serve in a variety of roles at the school. They are specialty and pre-service teachers, afterschool instructors, literacy interns, and classroom assistants. For example, TC math education students have introduced Professor Herbert Ginsburg’s technology-based MathemAntics program to help children build understanding of complex math concepts. And Professor Lori Custodero and her students have designed and implemented a music curriculum that teaches musical concepts and self-expression, instruction for voice and instruments (including the violin), and performance.

The College contributes comparable energy and expertise to the teachers themselves through professional development in literacy, social studies, and science, including the TC Reading/Writing Project, a preeminent literacy curriculum now used throughout the world.

Remarkable levels of family engagement are reflected in the spot programming instigated by the school’s active and engaged parents. In January 2014 they brought NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, whose experiences included a spacewalk that loosely inspired the film Gravity, to speak to the students.

Underlying our commitment to helping every child excel is a focus on meeting every child’s physical, emotional, and learning needs. During the school’s first two years, coaches from the TC Inclusive Classrooms Project worked with the faculty and staff to help establish norms for positive student behavior. We have school counseling interns on site who perform education, psychological, and developmental assessments, and provide interventions and counseling on site. And through our programs in Education, Health, and Psychology, we’ve setting up referral pipelines for TCCS and our other partnership schools to on-campus clinics and services at Columbia and Teachers College.

During the last three years, Dr. Pam Koch of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy has guided TC students as they've developed and delivered a curriculum focused on healthy eating and cooking through interactive lessons offered during the school day and after school. And TC hired and funded a PE teacher, an art teacher, and a librarian when the school lacked sufficient resources during its first two years.

No wonder TCCS parents embrace their school, and especially cherish the individualized instruction and attention every child receives. Not surprisingly, TCCS now receives among the most applications of any regular public school in New York City.

But there’s much more to the story. As a model of comprehensive educational opportunity, TCCS anchors REACH—Raising Educational Achievement Coalition of Harlem—the College’s partnership with a group of local pre–12 Harlem public schools, which is supported in part by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. This consortium leverages the resources of TC and Columbia University to provide comprehensive academic, social, and health services that are critical for children to reach their potential in school. Our key partners include: the Columbia School of Social Work; the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences; the Mailman School of Public Health; and numerous community and arts organizations.

TC’s Office of School and Community Partnerships was awarded nearly $2.6 million in state and city funds to advance family engagement and health-related efforts at two REACH schools, bringing the total combined philanthropic and public support of TCCS and our other partnership schools to $15.6 million.

Now, as New York City embarks on an ambitious effort to turn around 94 struggling schools by supporting them with a range of services, it has turned to TC to promote learning and expand parent activities and professional development for teachers at two of those schools.

A great university-assisted school such as TCCS alone will not transform public education or solve the myriad problems confronting urban public schools throughout the country. But if every university with a school of education and other professional schools were to partner with their local school districts—and in doing so create hubs of academic excellence, professional development, and family and community engagement—then we would generate a rising tide of education excellence and opportunity that would lift all boats.

(Published September, 2015)

Published Saturday, Sep. 26, 2015

Teachers College Community School (TCCS)

A National Model for Community Schools and University–Public School Partnership

Imagine a racially and ethnically diverse inner-city public school . . . where children get violin and swimming lessons, learn computer coding, meet astronauts, visit university science labs, and learn about nutrition by planting fruits and vegetables . . . where courses are shaped by the nation’s leading education experts . . .  and where children are screened and helped onsite to serve their physical and emotional health needs.

Eight years ago, leaders at Teachers College sat down with residents of the Manhattanville section of Harlem to imagine just such a school. The College had several goals in mind:

  • First, to serve and strengthen the community. “As neighbors with Harlem, we have the responsibility to work with our community,” said TC President Susan Fuhrman, who believes that excellent public schools lie at the heart of thriving communities.
  • Second, to demonstrate that “the cutting-edge knowledge that we have here can be infused into regular public education,” says Dr. Nancy Streim, TC’s Associate Vice President for School & Community Partnerships.
  • And third, to demonstrate that universities in general, and education schools in particular, are natural partners for local public schools. “With graduate students in social work, education and other areas, we can cost-effectively provide the wrap-around services schools need,” says Fuhrman. “TCCS, and Teachers College in general, are demonstration sites for the future of education in this country. Can you imagine the improvement we would see in public education in America if every university worked in concert with local schools and communities?”

Eight years later, Teachers College Community School (TCCS) has emerged as a national model for community schools and university–public school partnership. Since 2011, TC and Columbia together have provided TCCS with more than $5 million in supplemental funding for curriculum, staff development, after-school programs, and much more. The school has received generous support from Enid and Lester S. Morse Jr., E. John Rosenwald Jr., Laurie M. Tisch, and Susan Bram.

TCCS looks remarkably like what its planners envisioned. It is robustly diverse: 39 percent of its students are African American, 25 percent are Hispanic, 22 percent are white, 7 percent are Asian, and 6 percent are multiracial. It offers a dynamic learning environment, reflecting the input of TC faculty who offer the best research and teaching in math, science, music, psychology, nutrition, reading and writing, physical education, art and other fields. Half of the classroom teachers are TC alumni. They are supported by TC student teachers, who every day put into practice the effective teaching methods they learn from our faculty. TC students serve in a variety of roles at the school. They are specialty and pre-service teachers, afterschool instructors, literacy interns, and classroom assistants. For example, TC math education students have introduced Professor Herbert Ginsburg’s technology-based MathemAntics program to help children build understanding of complex math concepts. And Professor Lori Custodero and her students have designed and implemented a music curriculum that teaches musical concepts and self-expression, instruction for voice and instruments (including the violin), and performance.

The College contributes comparable energy and expertise to the teachers themselves through professional development in literacy, social studies, and science, including the TC Reading/Writing Project, a preeminent literacy curriculum now used throughout the world.

Remarkable levels of family engagement are reflected in the spot programming instigated by the school’s active and engaged parents. In January 2014 they brought NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, whose experiences included a spacewalk that loosely inspired the film Gravity, to speak to the students.

Underlying our commitment to helping every child excel is a focus on meeting every child’s physical, emotional, and learning needs. During the school’s first two years, coaches from the TC Inclusive Classrooms Project worked with the faculty and staff to help establish norms for positive student behavior. We have school counseling interns on site who perform education, psychological, and developmental assessments, and provide interventions and counseling on site. And through our programs in Education, Health, and Psychology, we’ve setting up referral pipelines for TCCS and our other partnership schools to on-campus clinics and services at Columbia and Teachers College.

During the last three years, Dr. Pam Koch of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy has guided TC students as they've developed and delivered a curriculum focused on healthy eating and cooking through interactive lessons offered during the school day and after school. And TC hired and funded a PE teacher, an art teacher, and a librarian when the school lacked sufficient resources during its first two years.

No wonder TCCS parents embrace their school, and especially cherish the individualized instruction and attention every child receives. Not surprisingly, TCCS now receives among the most applications of any regular public school in New York City.

But there’s much more to the story. As a model of comprehensive educational opportunity, TCCS anchors REACH—Raising Educational Achievement Coalition of Harlem—the College’s partnership with a group of local pre–12 Harlem public schools, which is supported in part by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. This consortium leverages the resources of TC and Columbia University to provide comprehensive academic, social, and health services that are critical for children to reach their potential in school. Our key partners include: the Columbia School of Social Work; the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences; the Mailman School of Public Health; and numerous community and arts organizations.

TC’s Office of School and Community Partnerships was awarded nearly $2.6 million in state and city funds to advance family engagement and health-related efforts at two REACH schools, bringing the total combined philanthropic and public support of TCCS and our other partnership schools to $15.6 million.

Now, as New York City embarks on an ambitious effort to turn around 94 struggling schools by supporting them with a range of services, it has turned to TC to promote learning and expand parent activities and professional development for teachers at two of those schools.

A great university-assisted school such as TCCS alone will not transform public education or solve the myriad problems confronting urban public schools throughout the country. But if every university with a school of education and other professional schools were to partner with their local school districts—and in doing so create hubs of academic excellence, professional development, and family and community engagement—then we would generate a rising tide of education excellence and opportunity that would lift all boats.

(Published September, 2015)

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