Temple University College of Education Builds School and Community Partnerships via the Choice Neighborhood Initiative

Posted by on July 13, 2015 K-16 Newsletter

Temple University is a lead education partner for the Choice Neighborhood Initiative, which was granted by the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the City of Philadelphia in 2014. As part of the Choice Neighborhood Initiative, Temple University and other local partners are developing supports for children and families in the Norris Homes neighborhood. This neighborhood encompasses Dunbar and Duckrey schools and Temple will specifically direct supports to the students of these schools and their families. Dr. James Earl Davis and Dr. Meghan Raisch are directing this effort from within the Temple College of Education.

James Earl Davis, Ph.D. is a professor of higher educational leadership at Temple University where he holds the Bernard C. Watson Endowed Chair in Urban Education. He also has affiliate faculty appointments in the Department of African American Studies and the Women & Gender Studies Program.  Professor Davis’ program of research focuses on gender-based educational policy; race, class, gender and cultural issues in schooling; and the social stratification of higher education.

Meghan Raisch, Ph.D. is currently the Education Engagement Specialist at Temple University’s College of Education who serves as the Lead Education Partner on the Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI) that the City of Philadelphia was awarded to revitalize North Central Philadelphia. Dr. Raisch is an adjunct professor at Temple’s College of Education, and a former teacher at the School District of Philadelphia.

Interview with Dr. Davis:

Q: What has been your role in terms of partnering with Philadelphia public schools as a faculty member?

A: As a faculty member engaged in research, the School District of Philadelphia is an important site to understand the challenges, possibilities and what works relative to improving the educational success of students who are often marginalized by schools. The School District continues to be an important collaborative research and teaching partner for me and my graduate students.

Traditionally the College of Education has engaged with K-12 public schools as a direct service provider. The results of our intervention efforts have been mixed at best. The College is now moving away from engaging with K-12 schools as a service provider and we are assuming a new role as a facilitator who convenes an array of transformative agencies. We are approaching these schools with a collective impact strategy, so our role is to strategically align these resources. The overall goal of assembling this multi-agency team of providers is to make high quality public school options for neighborhood children from the North Philadelphia community.

Q: What successes and challenges have you had over the course of building these partnerships?

A: One of the recent challenges the Paul Laurence Dunbar School faced this academic year was the result of several local school closures and the subsequent influx of new students that Dunbar has absorbed.  This sudden and unexpected increase in their student body has altered the student-teacher ratio in a way that has left the school under-resourced in terms of individualized student support. To address this issue, Temple University has hired an Education Engagement Specialist, Dr. Meghan Raisch, who is providing intensive reading and math interventions for low performing students as well as connecting Dunbar to additional resources allocated by the Choice Neighborhood Initiative. The challenges are in the coordination of multiple agencies and how to align their services in a strategic and seamless way. Our success in this effort has hinged on Dunbar’s Principal, Dawn Moore, who opened her doors to us and continues to offer her trust and patience as our efforts take shape.

Q: How have these experiences effected your reignited partnership with Dunbar in terms of planning and implementation?

A: Temple University has a rich history with the Paul Laurence Dunbar School, but the current partnership between Dunbar and the College of Education was solidified by the acquisition of the H.U.D. Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI) on which Temple University is the Lead Education Partner.  Through the CNI grant the College of Education has committed to providing resources in terms of instructional support, practicum students, leadership development, and new afterschool programing.

Interview with Dr. Raisch:

Q: You will be directing college and career readiness programs for Norris neighborhood families this year, what are you most excited about?

A: One of the educational strategies outlined in the Choice Neighborhood Initiative is to increase the college and career readiness of school-aged children within the Norris community.  Traditionally, this effort is implemented at the high school level, however in the City of Philadelphia, with our competitive high school admissions process, the pathway to college begins in middle school.  To address this, the College of Education has partnered with Steppingstone Scholars, Inc., a non-profit educational agency who strive to prepare motivated urban students for admission to and success at highly selective schools around Philadelphia.  Steppingstone Scholars is creating a college-going culture in Dunbar, where the majority of Norris children are enrolled, that has already increased the number of 8th graders going to top performing Philadelphia public high schools.  Steppingstone Scholars is also providing afterschool programming with a STEAM focus, and I am really excited to continuing working with the Steppingstone team to provide a STEAM Summer Camp for Norris children to attend this August.

Q: How have summer programs been planned for Norris neighborhood families and how does this exemplify your collaborative decision making processes with the community?

A: The Norris Summer Camp is an extension of our partnership with the Norris Community Resident Council, Inc. (NCRC) that created the Norris Afterschool Program.  This is a residents-based model for service delivery of out-of-school time education.  We designed both programs with the Resident Council who are the subcontracted service providers that operate the facility, while the College of Education provides professional development, curriculum, and instructional supplies.  We have been purposeful in our approach to make this an authentic collaborative effort that showcases the strengths of the Norris community.  During the planning stages we met regularly to write the initial proposal where we created the goals of program and decided on the metrics that we would use to determine success.  Since then, any decisions on curriculum, purchasing supplies, and partnering with new programs are done together.

Q: What would you like the K-16 Partnerships Network to know about you and your approach to university-school partnerships?

A: I would like to highlight the willingness of the Norris Community Resident Council, Inc. to enter into this partnership with the College of Education.  Their President and the new Afterschool Program Administrator, Donna Richardson, has been pivotal in developing the program and advocating for the needs of the families within Norris.  My relationship with Ms. Richardson continues to grow and with her endorsement I have been able to start building a rapport with the greater Norris community.  She has taught us all that effective partnerships begin with respect and a recognition of what each party brings to the table.

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