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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Teachers College to Partner with 10 Public Schools in Harlem

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GE Partnership Grant

Nancy Streim, head of TC's new Office of School and Community Partnerships, and Peter McFarlane, Principal of PS/IS 180, which will be partnering with the College.

Teachers College has received a $5 million grant from the GE Foundation to create an intensive new partnership with a group of 10 public schools in Harlem.  

The College will use the grant to build the partner schools’ capacity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics instruction. Ultimately, the College’s Harlem partnership initiative will expand to include a broader range of subject areas and disciplines at a larger group of schools.

The GE Foundation grant, announced at a press conference in New York City on June 30th that included GE President Jeffrey Immelt, New York City Congressman Charles Rangel, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Public School Chancellor Joel Klein, is part of a larger effort by the Foundation that includes a major award to the Fund for Public Education.

Teachers College is working in conjunction with Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, as well as the Morningside Area Alliance, which promotes education, affordable housing and other services in upper Manhattan.

“Our involvement in this exciting new project is the latest and most emphatic demonstration of TC’s longstanding commitment to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for children in the communities surrounding the College,” said TC President Susan H. Fuhrman in announcing the new effort. “The partnerships being initiated with this funding represent the first step in our creation of a robust network of TC-affiliated public schools in upper Manhattan. We are proud to be working in a broad collaboration that includes faculty across many departments at Teachers College, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, the New York City Department of Education and the Morningside Area Alliance to prepare Harlem’s children to be full participants in a world increasingly shaped by science and technology.

“TC has long maintained many important outreach efforts in Harlem public schools and elsewhere in the City to build curriculum, conduct professional development for teachers, provide counseling services and run after-school programs,” said Nancy Streim, Associate Vice President and head of the College’s newly created Office for School and Community Partnerships, which provides schools and other organizations with a single point of access to resources at Teachers College. “Now we will take that effort to a new level by leveraging a wide array of resources for a select group of schools.”

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for TC to have a direct impact on enhancing the education experience in science and math for Harlem youth,” said Janell Catlin, Project Director for the GE Foundation grant within TC’s Office of School and Community Partnerships. 

“So many of our teachers shy away from teaching math because they don’t have a fundamental understanding of the subject matter—it was the subject they had the most trouble with themselves when they were in school,” says Renee Belton, Principal of Community School 200 (the James McCune Smith School), one of the partner schools. “This program will help them understand math, not just do it. And when the teachers have that understanding, the students are going to do better as well.”

Belton said her school’s work with the Teachers College Reading and Math Buddies program—through which students at the College work daily with elementary school students—was a major factor in her willingness to enter into the new partnership.

“Our kids are already getting so much from TC, so we’re very excited about this,” she said.

Dr. Peter L. McFarlane, Principal of PS/IS 180 (the Hugo Newman College Preparatory School) said the new partnership “means that Teachers College is putting its money where its mouth is in terms of a collaboration encompassing the entire community and not just a part of it.” McFarlane, who received his doctorate from TC and is an alumnus of the College’s Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished New York City Principals, added that “It’s important, when you look at the change dynamic in New York City, that we now have a leading educational institution go to the forefront in helping to cultivate support for schools in the community.” McFarlane said he believes the partnership will help “every aspect of my school, from teacher recruitment and retention to comprehensive professional development to the alignment of curriculum to state and national standards.

“It also enables the principal to draw on the best research when he’s thinking about how to improve the school,” McFarlane said.

Teachers College has a long-standing tradition of intensively preparing pre-service teachers in the disciplines of math and science. The College’s Math, Science and Technology Department is particularly attuned to the cultural differences in how young people in urban settings learn – their motivations and frameworks. The Department, which includes a center that focuses on helping teachers adapt new technologies to the classroom, is distinguished by a strong inter-disciplinary approach.

Key faculty members from the College who will support the partnership include:  

  • Christopher Emdin, Assistant Professor of Science Education. Emdin received the 2007 Phi Delta Kappan International Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award for his research on approaches to increase student motivation, involvement and achievement in science education in urban high schools.
  • Alexander Karp, Associate Professor of Math Education. Karp has taught extensively at St. Petersburg University of Education in Russia, where he also has consulted with numerous schools, districts and colleges on curriculum, teacher training and evaluation in mathematics and served as a member of the St. Petersburg Committee for Evaluation and Assessment of Teachers. He consulted with the Finnish Team for Mathematical Olympiads in 1993. Karp has authored more than 50 publications on geometry, methods of education, evaluation of student achievement, elementary mathematics and the history of mathematics education. He is the recipient of several Soros Foundation Outstanding Teacher Awards and three awards as the Winner of the National Textbook Competition.
  • Felicia Moore, Assistant Professor of Science Education. As a postdoctoral fellow in the National Science Foundation’s Center for Curriculum Materials in Science, Moore worked on projects ranging from environmental literacy to developing science curriculum materials that addressed issues of diversity in planning, teaching and assessing science for diverse groups of students. In 2005, she was one of five awardees of the Equity and Ethics Scholarship from the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. She also has received a Race, Culture and Diversity Research Grant from TC.
  • Ann Rivet, Assistant Professor of Science Education. Rivet’s special interests include how to implement learning technologies in the classroom, the role of digital photographs in education, and the integration of curriculum and technology. She is an expert in earth sciences who has served as lead developer of teacher instructional materials for Looking at The Environment (LATE), an inquiry-based science curriculum for high school. She also has created curriculum and professional development materials such as a sixth grade physical science unit as part of the Center for Learning Technologies in Urban Schools. 
  • Erica Walker, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education. In her research, Walker explores factors contributing to the math success of students of color. Her publications include “Who Can do Mathematics?”, “Getting to the Right Algebra: The Equity 2000 Initiative in Milwaukee Public Schools,” and “Student Voices: African Americans and Mathematics.” 

As part of the work funded by the GE Foundation, TC also is partnering with the Center for Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement (CTICE) at Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. CTICE, which runs extensive science and technology education programs in Harlem public schools, will develop specialized science and technology education programs for middle and high schools covered by the GE Foundation grant.

While at least 10 Harlem schools are expected to partner with Teachers College as a result of the GE Foundation grant, the full list has not yet been finalized. Details of the partnerships will be worked out over the course of the summer. Core activities of the partnership will focus on ensuring a rigorous and relevant math and science curriculum, using technology; increasing teachers’ knowledge of new developments in math and science fields; and the creation of after-school programs for students. 

For more information about TC’s Office of School and Community Partnerships, visit www.tc.columbia.edu/oscp/.

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