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Lending a Hand in the Neighborhood



Susan Fuhrman and Nancy Streim with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the GE Grant announcement press conference


Johanna Duncan-Poitiér speaks at the October 2008 university-school partnership conference.

In fall 2006, TC President Susan Fuhrman met with a group of political, community and education leaders in Harlem and promised to establish broader and more comprehensive partnerships with neighborhood public schools.

Progress since then has been swift and steady. Fuhrman and Associate Vice President Nancy Streim created TC’s Office of School and Community Partnerships (OSCP) to serve schools as a single point of access to the college’s resources.

In June 2008, OSCP received a $5 million grant from the GE Foundation to partner with a group of Harlem schools on curriculum and teacher development in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math). This fall, the Office secured another $3.2 million from New York State to create STEM-focused after-school programming at public schools in Central Harlem, Morningside Heights, Washington Heights and Inwood. (Students who participate get to operate and program a robot and do other cool hands-on projects.)

And more will follow. Soon, TC will announce more comprehensive partnerships with a smaller group of Harlem schools, under which the College will take direct responsibility for students’ academic performance. And TC is also working to open its own pre-K–8 public school in Harlem in fall 2010.

And universities have a strong self-interest in doing such work, Fuhrman and Streim argued in a November 2008 commentary piece in Education Week, because “today’s struggling public school students will become tomorrow’s struggling college students.” Also, higher education—and education schools in particular—benefit enormously from an ongoing flow of real world knowledge and experience.

Now, with the United States in financial crisis and the future of school budgets in jeopardy, the two are positioning Teachers College as a leader in promoting university-public school partnerships as a national model for assisting struggling schools and addressing the education achievement gap that separates many poor children (typically those of color) from their wealthier peers.

In October 2008, they held a major conference at TC that brought together more than 200 New York State education officials to discuss the expansion of university-school partnerships across the state and the creation of models of cooperation for school systems across the country. Speakers at the conference included Stanford University’s Linda Darling-Hammond, founder of a high school in California and education advisor to then-Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama, and Johanna Duncan-Poitiér, New York State’s Senior Deputy Commissioner of Education for P–16.

At the close of the conference, Photeine Anagnostopoulos, Chief Operating Officer for the New York City Department of Education, said that because the City can’t afford to do much educational research, “universities are really our R&D departments—they bring in what they’ve learned around the country.”

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