To see a story on the College of Education and the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Urban Education, click here.
When C. Kent McGuire stepped in as dean at the College of Education five years ago, he remembers one of his first visits came from Pennsylvania State Rep. James Roebuck of West Philadelphia.
“He did me a great service and came to me as soon as I became dean,” McGuire said. “We’ve been in touch ever since.”
The two have also been fast at work on the same objective since that time: developing ways to improve education in the city.
McGuire’s tenure as dean so far has been marked by his emphasis on expanding urban education research, and his recent collaboration with Roebuck in creating the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Urban Teaching has continued that trend.
But McGuire’s biggest initiative has been to partner with five North Philadelphia schools in 2003 and to establish the Urban Education Collaborative in 2005.
“We had plenty of research going on within the faculty,” McGuire said, “But not much of it was focused on teacher evaluation and efficacy [in urban districts].”
With the partnerships and the UEC, the College of Education obtained a “clinical view” of its research via the School District of Philadelphia classrooms and moved in position to apply their numerous reform efforts.
Through the partnership schools, the College of Education has provided support and learning opportunities for the principals, teachers and students. The UEC was formed to provide a center for the school’s reform strategy and research, through which it could put into action by collaborating with the school district.
“We’re starting to see, through these projects, the opportunity to learn some things,” said McGuire.
Temple originally partnered with five local elementary and middle schools in 2003, a year after the state took control of Philadelphia’s school district and turned more than 45 schools to several private for-profit and non-profit managers.
Two of those schools have since closed as part of a citywide reduction in middle schools, but Temple has retained three and added Gen. George G. Meade School.
Temple’s results as a school manager have been mixed, according to a 2007 RAND Education report, but the partnership has allowed for the opportunity to test specific learning methods and improve teaching quality.
Teachers at all the partnership schools have access to literacy and math education courses at Temple, which is the area’s largest provider of teachers. Partnership school students also have access to Temple pediatricians, social workers, health educators, and psychologists through the Surroundcare program.
The UEC’s goals are more specific. McGuire hired Heidi Ramirez, a former special assistant to the deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, to lead the UEC. Ramirez was also recently sworn in as a member of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. McGuire turned down the commission’s top spot in late January.
Ramirez and the UEC have compiled a lengthy portfolio of research in the past three years in an attempt to address three areas: teacher quality, leadership development and climate for learning.
“On the teacher’s quality side, we’ve built this continuum of programs,” Ramirez said. “Now, with the Governor’s School, it starts all the way when they’re 16 [or] 17 years old.”
The UEC has developed a statewide model for the preparation of middle-grade math and sciences teachers – teachers the state severely lacks – in collaboration with the College of Science and Technology and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Through other programs, the UEC has also developed a Center for Teaching Excellence where current teachers can continue their education, studied teacher hiring practices and school safety in the School District of Philadelphia, and developed two separate academies to support and target aspiring principals in the area.
“All of this work is for supporting urban schools and creating greater access for school children,” Ramirez said.
The new Governor’s School for Urban Education, both Ramirez and McGuire said, is the next step in the UEC’s reform strategy and their continued push to better understand urban education reform.
“It’s very consistent with the role a modern research university should take as a good citizen,” McGuire said, referring to Temple’s work with city schools, while admitting the university’s involvement in the community “makes sense” considering it is publicly-funded.
“But it’s not just service,” McGuire added. “If we do it right, we’ll also be able to study how we do it and get back to knowledge production as well as community service.”
Nick Pipitone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.