A Temple University initiative is reaching out to Pennsylvania public schools with a program designed to increase student performance and create a stronger learning environment.
The Community for Learning program is a non-profit, U.S. Department of Education approved reform program that is currently being used in 110 schools.
It is one of 28 reform programs in the country that have met all of the requirements to be used in schools.
CFL takes advantage of resources a school already has and works with schools to enhance the curriculum, rather then demand that the school buys new materials.
A curriculum is designed for each student, eliminating the traditional lesson plan.
The focus on individual responsibility begins with children as soon as kindergarten, with significant time spent in small group work without constant teacher supervision.
“This does mean there is a giving up of power by the teacher because students spend about 50 percent of their day working on their own,” said CFL program coordinator Jill Soltzfus.
“The students spend more time in learning communities then in rows like tin soldiers.”
Philadelphia was the initial test site for the program, but a lack of cooperation from teachers combined with high turnover rates made it impossible for CFL to be fully implemented.
“Some Philadelphia school teachers have stayed in touch with CFL and continue to use the program in their classroom,” said CFL program developer E. Samira Woods.
“We are now ready to reach out to our home base of Philadelphia.”
The program was founded by the University’s Dr. Margaret Wang in the 1970s, and is based on over two decades of research on what makes schools work.
“This is a researched program,” said Woods.
“The only way it does not work is if the school is not dedicated to the program.”
The idea of consistency is a basic factor of success. Individual attention and lesson plans are tailored to the needs of each student.
Each school is responsible for submitting all teachers to an intensive training session.
If the program is followed correctly, CFL boasts there will be noticeable results in three to five years.
CFL officials claim that the program has had success because of diverse staffing and the personalized programs.
They say discipline is a smaller problem in CFL learning communities because learning is linked to real world experience, so students aren’t asking, “Why do I have to learn this?”
Parents are also used as a resource in the program.
CFL refers to this strategy as “Community curriculum for growing in the home.”
CFL also helps the schools understand roles of the community, with some schools going as far as to offer social services.
Pennsylvania schools interested in this program for next year have already begun the application process, which includes requesting federal aid for the program.
Because Congress has released no new funds for school improvements, districts will only be allotted leftover funding.
The cost of CFL is substantially less then other programs because it makes use of existing resources, but the money that is needed comes entirely from the government.
Holli Powitzky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.