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Syracuse ‘Partnership for Better Education’ to expand and grow
Syracuse ‘Partnership for Better Education’ to expand and growOctober 04, 2006Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
At an event held Wednesday afternoon at Henninger High School, Syracuse University Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor, Syracuse City School District (SCSD) Superintendent Daniel G. Lowengard and Syracuse Mayor Matthew J. Driscoll announced a major expansion of the “Partnership for Better Education,” which will serve the SCSD with expanded programming in additional city schools; additional curriculum building programs; and enhanced teacher training and recruitment.
Building on the success of the original program, which was launched in August 2005 in Nottingham High School, the Partnership will now offer programs to students in Corcoran, Henninger, Fowler and Central Technical high schools, and in the 28 elementary and middle schools that feed into them.
Last fall, the Partnership was launched as a collaborative alliance between SU and the SCSD to assist area students in pursuing higher education by providing new opportunities for quality instruction and by improving students’ access to the arts and creative resources for study. Using learning communities as the framework for focused interaction between SU and the SCSD, the Partnership works to expose students to creative approaches to arts, literacy, science and technology, engineering and math.
Entering its second year this fall, the Partnership will now expand to include several area colleges and universities as partners in the program. Joining the Partnership are the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Le Moyne College, Onondaga Community College and SUNY Upstate Medical University. These institutions will all begin to develop initiatives and programming that match the needs within the SCSD curriculum to their areas of institutional strength. SU will continue to coordinate the comprehensive and systematic structure for designing, implementing, organizing and evaluating the joint activities involving these institutions and the SCSD.
“We’re proud that after just one year the Partnership has already become a blueprint for successful collaboration between higher education and public schools,” Cantor says. “The Partnership is a prime example of the University’s Scholarship in Action vision, and we’re excited that this year the program will be expanding into additional city schools and that some of our region’s premier higher education institutions are joining us as partners. With this growing network of collaborative scholarship, Syracuse’s public school students will have access to the educational resources that inspire creative thinking and innovation early in their educational careers.”
“The Partnership represents a shared spirit of genuine commitment to our city’s children. It will provide immeasurable educational opportunities for our students and staff and steer students toward personal and career goals,” Lowengard says. “A great deal of time and various resources are being provided by the colleges to the Partnership, for which the school district is extremely grateful.”
Coordinated through administrative leadership at both SU and the SCSD, the Partnership’s expansion will focus on:
- Enabling smaller learning communities: SU will work with smaller learning communities across the SCSD to engage more students and teachers in programs that provide curriculum experiential opportunities aligned with district learning standards. SU will adopt six smaller learning communities — with the theme of inclusion woven throughout — based on its expertise and resources in literacy through the arts; business and entrepreneurship; and science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM fields.
- Early college high school programs: Integrated with SU’s involvement in the smaller learning communities will be the goal of greater student engagement to encourage opportunities for students to graduate in four to five years with both a high school diploma and significant college credit.
- Creation of an Urban Teacher program: Faculty in SU’s science, math, literacy and special education programs — based in the School of Education — can ensure that the students they prepare to be teachers will be able to embrace the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for them. And to recruit outstanding students — from areas such as SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, School of Architecture and College of Arts and Sciences — to teach in high needs fields, the School of Education has initiated a tuition scholarship program to cover one third of the tuition for full-time masters study in these disciplines. Part-time master students employed by the SCSD are also eligible to receive these scholarships.
- Access to coordinated pipeline programs: The pipeline programs at SU — like Syracuse Challenge, Saturday Academy, Summer College, GEAR-UP, the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) and others — have been joined together to provide students with greater access to these opportunities. The pipeline programs help equip middle school students with the skills to take full opportunity of higher education. These pipeline programs encourage students to stay involved in their education and help provide them with access to educational resources, which leads to student enrollment in learning communities and in Partnership classes.
- Program assessment: Collaborative teams that are assigned to each initiative are undertaking a detailed assessment of the Partnership. These teams include relevant SU faculty and SCSD teachers involved in each program working to identify the specific New York state teaching standards and assessment data points. The assessment outcome variables of primary focus will be objective measures of achievement and engagement — test scores, school attendance, surveys of student engagement, and brief qualitative interviews and questionnaires that set students on a path for future success. The Partnership students’ performance will be measured over time and compared with a matched sample of students at the same schools who have not taken part in the Partnership classes.
“This program proved quite successful as a pilot program last year, and I am very excited to see it build upon that success this year,” says Driscoll. “We need to focus on providing a quality education for our children and increasing our graduation rates. However, the City and School District cannot do it alone. A quality education will only be assured through cooperation, and creative collaborations such as the Partnership for Better Education.”
One of the many examples of the success of the 2005-06 pilot program was the “Adolescent Literacy Project,” a collaboration between SU’s School of Education Reading and Language Arts faculty and SCSD-wide teachers and students in a series of meetings structured around the work of urban activist Luis J. Rodriguez, one of the nation’s leading Chicano writers. High school students worked with Rodriguez’s texts, wrote their own poetry, and were able to attend a special lecture by Rodriguez on the SU campus, during which he spoke of the importance of creative activities and expression as a means to community building and violence prevention. The “Adolescent Literacy Project” has led to the publication of a soon-to-be-released anthology of 90 student poems and photography titled “Soul Talk 2006.”
Another example, implemented in the Spring 2006 semester, is the Literacy Through Photography project. SU students enrolled in a Community, Literacy, and Photography course — team taught by Judith Meighan and Doug DuBois of SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts in collaboration with Mary Lynn Mahan, the art teacher at Edward Smith Elementary School — worked with fifth-grade students at Edward Smith on Literacy Through Photography projects, which resulted in more than 80 images taken by city schoolchildren that explored their families, their communities and their dreams. A display of these photos — enriched by the students’ writings — was later mounted in SU’s Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery. A selection from the exhibition was on display at today’s event. This program will be expanding into Nottingham High School and Levy Middle School in 2006-07, with the addition of graduate students from SU’s Creative Writing Program.
“Through the expansion of the Partnership, we have built a bridge that now crosses wider boundaries,” says Horace Smith, SU associate vice president for undergraduate studies and retention. “By sharing and coordinating physical, cultural and intellectual resources, we can more effectively reach our city students and provide better access to quality instruction, engagement and academic success.”
Among the new Partnership initiatives that will be introduced into the SCSD schools this fall:
- Guest artists in both music and the visual arts who come to SU will share their expertise with Nottingham and Henninger high school students during special performances and talk-back sessions. Workshops will include bronze-pour, metal-smithing, ceramics, fibers, printmaking and landscape painting.
- Students and faculty from SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science will provide Science Olympiad and Math League coaching and mentoring to district students.
- Teachers from the Syracuse City School District will participate in secondary science workshops sponsored by SU’s School of Education.
Also at today’s event, the Partnership unveiled its new website for students, parents and Partnership members: http://partnership.syr.edu. The site includes photos and information on current projects; upcoming events; the Partnership Strategic Plan; partnering institutions; and ways to become involved.
Partnership for Better Education is supported in part through grants from SU’s Burton Blatt Institute, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Verizon Foundation, the New York State Department of Education, Higher Education Services Corp. and the U.S. Department of Education.