2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

TC Media Center from the Office of External Affairs

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Partnering Across the Education Pipeline: TC Holds Statewide Conference on Higher Education-Public School Partnerships

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Linda Darling-Hammond

Linda Darling-Hammond

Partnering Across the Education Pipeline

Associate Vice President Nancy Streim heads

Partnering Across the Education Pipeline

Kent McGuire said Temple University became visible in the community through school partnerships

Partnering Across the Education Pipeline

Jennifer Raab said Hunter was motivated in part by self-interest in creating its own high school

Partnering Across the Education Pipeline

James Comer said his program all but closed the achievement gap in Asheville, NC

Partnering Across the Education Pipeline

NYC Councilman Robert Jackson spoke of his experiences in mobilizing the community around education issues

Partnering Across the Education Pipeline

Johanna Duncan-Poiter said higher ed must be at the table in reviewing high school graduation standards

“We are publicly responsible for what happens in the schools. It is risky, of course, but it’s a commitment that we believe in.” 

The speaker was Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman, greeting a gathering of  nearly 200 education leaders and New York State education officials at TC in late October to discuss expanding university and public school partnerships statewide and creating models of cooperation for school systems across the country.

By “we,” Fuhrman was referring both to TC, which is in the midst of an intensive new program of outreach to schools in Harlem and other local neighborhoods, and to institutions of higher education in general. By “commitment,” she meant “a deep, sustained partnership with schools in which the College shares accountability for student outcomes.”

The Conference was organized by TC’s Office of School & Community Partnerships, created in 2006 to provide a single point of access for city schools to the College’s resources. The Office has raised more than $8 million in grants for school partnerships, including a new initiative to create after-school programming with four local community-based organizations. (For more on that initiative and on OSCP, see accompanying stories.)

A dominant theme at the meeting was that, amid the current economic crisis and cutbacks in public funding, partnerships between universities and public schools could be the only way the nation’s school system will be able to educate and train future generations.

Keynote speaker Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University and the founder of a high school in California, stressed that such partnerships were not only possible, but necessary, to make the American education system work for children, families and the economy into the 21st century.

She noted that the United States has slipped to thirteenth from first in the world in the percentage of adults who graduate college. As a result, it has had to import foreign workers. “We are actually not able to fill the high-tech jobs with graduates of our own, Darling-Hammond said. “We are not going to move forward as a nation unless we address this issue.”

The solution will require a complete redesign of the nation’s education system, from pre-school through college, and a closing of the achievement gap between minority and white students—and that will not happen without increased school-university partnerships, which “can create, protect and document new educational designs,” Darling-Hammond said.

TC Associate Vice President Nancy Streim, who heads the Office of School & Community Partnerships, introduced a panel whose members described three different approaches to university-community partnerships—start-up, turnaround and wraparound.

Jennifer Raab, president of Hunter College in New York City, said Hunter’s decision to start Hunter Science High School in 2003 was driven by a “self interest” in creating a pipeline of excellent high school graduates for the college. After resolving in its favor some issues with the city regarding staff hiring (Hunter wanted control) and responsibility for physical maintenance, which Hunter did not want, the College opened the Hunter Science High School in 2003. Since then, nearly 99 percent of graduates of the high school have gone to college, and of that number, nearly one-quarter to Hunter College.

Giving an example of the turnaround model, C. Kent McGuire, Dean of Temple University’s College of Education described Temple’s Partnership Schools, whichi five years ago started running four elementary and two middle schools (the total number has since dropped to four) in the poorest ZIP codes of Philadelphia. “We are attempting to create a direct pathway from neighborhood schools to the University,” he said. “The way had been, ‘don’t attempt to go to Temple, but go to community colleges.’ “

The program arose from a “commitment of Temple to its neighbors,” with whom the university had had a “long, challenging relationship,” McGuire said. Temple was turning itself into a more residential college and raising its admissions standards at a time when fewer than 50 percent of kids in its north Philadelphia neighborhood were going to any college, let alone Temple.

Temple “surrounded the schools with a range of support,” McGuire said, including after-school programs, and became “highly visible in the community” while providing their teachers with intensive professional development, altering their work routines and sending more Temple graduates into the schools.

Temple program has raised test scores, albeit from a low base, and performance has varied widely among the lower-performing schools. But overall outcomes have been good, McGuire said. “Violence is down, attendance is up, parental involvement is up.”

TC Trustee James Comer, founder of the Comer School Development Program at Yale University, where he is Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry, described his program’s “wraparound” approach, which bolsters educational intervention with a range of social services such as nutritional and health counseling and working with parents. Comer, who is a physician, said his model takes into account the broad developmental needs of the child—not just the academic needs—and the need for a community culture that supports children’s aspirations to succeed.

“The social network has a great influence on a parent and child,” he said. “This is very important when we think about the dropout rate. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be a doctor, and I had a network that protected me from the nay-sayers.”

Comer’s program, which began in New Haven and now operates in several cities, “all but closed the achievement gap” in five years in Asheville, N.C.

Speakers emphasized that in successful partnerships, the commitment on the higher education side must begin with the president and faculty of a college or university. Panelist Corey Bowman, who develops school partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania, said Penn brings all the resources of the higher education institution to bear on its programs—not just the Graduate School of Education, but the School of Social Policy & Practice, the medical school, and the science, arts and humanities programs, as well as an academically based community service program that has Penn undergraduate students working in Philadelphia schools.

Another recurring message was that higher education must act as partners with the schools rather than as directors of collaborations, and not treat schools as simply places to do research. They must establish long-term, consistent cooperation over several years that helps provide schools the support they need.

Yet Raab also said that the higher education partner must be able to choose the leadership of a public school it partners with, and to work closely with the school on management and teacher training. She said she had been unwilling to put Hunter College’s name on a school for which the college could not make hiring decisions.

Johanna Duncan-Poitier, New York State’s Senior Deputy Commissioner of Education for preK-through-16, said that the state actively supports the creation of university-school partnerships as the way to transform education from pre-kindergarten through college.

“This isn’t altruism any more,” she declared. By 2020, 60 percent of jobs are going to require a college education. The American system is graduating about four percent more students than in 2004. “At that rate, 14 million people will not have jobs,” she said.

Worsening the outlook, about one-third of students who start college don’t finish.  Fifteen percent of students in four-year colleges, and 48 percent of those in two-year colleges, require remedial studies. Duncan-Poitier said that showing results from the preK-12 system’s failure to graduate students who are ready for college. “We need to start reviewing and renewing graduate standards, with higher education at the table,” she said. “We know that students who participate in partnership programs succeed.”

A final panel examined the issue through the lens of the current economic crisis and suggested that, now more than ever, preK-12 schools must rely on higher education’s more-stable financial resources as well as programmatic and research capabilities. Because New York City can’t afford to do much educational research, “universities are really our R&D departments,” said Photeine Anagnostopoulos, chief operating officer in the Chancellor’s Office at the New York City Department of Education. “They bring in what they’ve learned around the country.”

The economic downturn could make school systems more open to new cooperation with higher education, argued Seymour Fliegel president of the Center for Educational Innovation-Public Education Association. “There’s never been a better time to get creative.”

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