Published Online:

Benefits Seen in ~'Town-Gown'Collaborations

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Racine, Wis--Big-city public schools and urban universities--institutions that have had no history of effective collaboration--are working together to develop programs that better prepare inner-city students for work and college.

Educators from Boston, Birmingham, Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee and six other cities met at the Wingspread conference center recently to discuss progress being made in a project sponsored by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges with seed money from the Ford Foundation.

The project, begun in the fall of 1981, originally involved three cities and was designed to revive public education in urban areas through the creation of partnerships between schools, colleges, business leaders, and municipal officials.

Perhaps the most ambitious collaborative program now underway is in Boston, which has had seven new superintendents in the last nine years and has experienced a program-slashing state tax-limitation law and an ongoing busing controversy.

"Things had to hit rock bottom before any positive collaboration could begin. Believe me when I say 'rock bottom,"' says Robert Schwartz, who works as special assistant to both the president of the University of Massachusetts at Boston and the superintendent of the Boston public schools and was instrumental in setting up the national project.

The new superintendent, a new school committee, and an extensive collaborative program called "The Boston Compact" may be turning things around, Mr. Schwartz and others say.

Under the Boston Compact--which is designed to provide "rational motivation" for students who have "lost the sense that achievement in high school leads to jobs or higher education"--businesses and the school district sign a contract to perform specific functions, according to William Spring, president of the Trilateral Council for Quality Education Inc.

Business agrees to a policy of priority hiring of Boston high-school students while school officials agree to promulgate reports that describe their performance regarding attendance, retention, achievement, and placement. The schools also allocate staff members and resources to support innovations--such as job training and new curricula--that advance the measurable goals of the compact.

These goals include a 5-percent increase every year in the number of students who graduate from high school, find jobs, and who go on to higher education. In addition, all graduates will be expected by 1986 to meet minimum-competency standards in reading and mathematics.

Some 27 colleges and universities in Boston have been working with the school district since 1974 when Judge W. Arthur Garrity's desegregation plan ordered school districts to seek cooperative support from colleges and external agencies. The Boston higher-education institutions are now stepping up their commitment to schools as a result of the compact, according to Robert I. Sperber, special assistant to president of Boston University and coor-dinator of the steering committee of the 27 college and university presidents.

Mr. Sperber, a former superintendent of schools in Brookline, Mass., says that the state provides funding for joint programs as a result of legislation filed following the 1974 busing order. The Boston colleges and universities are matched as partners with school districts or individual high schools, and provide about $3 dollars worth of services for every dollar allocated by the state, according to Mr. Sperber.

Universities in Boston are currently working to improve school performance in 15 areas, including basic skills and remediation, guidance, higher-education assistance, curriculum development, research and development, and arts education.

A group of professors from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and Boston University is also working with Boston school officials and teachers to develop new curricula in foreign language, history, and English. The curricula in these areas vary from school to school, according to Mr. Sperber.

Currently, Mr. Sperber and the 27 college and university heads are putting into formal contractual language their specific commitment to the schools.

"Colleges and universities will sign contracts just like businesses," according to Mr. Sperber.

This year, "the compact's goal is to recruit at least 200 companies to sign a hiring pledge and to place 400 high-school graduates in jobs," according to a letter distributed to the members of the Boston Chamber of Commerce by Kenneth R. Rossano, chairman of the chamber.

Raise Number of Jobs

The compact will work to raise the number of jobs for graduates from 400 to 1,000 in the next four years, according to Mr. Spring, who estimates that there are some 25,000 entry-level jobs in Boston.

"Agencies involved in the compact combined to place 850 students in summer jobs last year. Some 87 percent of the businesses who hired said that the kids were just as good as the students normally hired," Mr. Spring says.

In Milwaukee, Superintendent of Schools Lee R. McMurrin and Frank E. Horton, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, are using staff "at all levels" to complete joint projects designed to increase opportunities for Milwaukee's public-school students.

"About 90 percent of the students who attend the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee come from the city's public schools and the surrounding area," according to Mr. Horton. Student-development projects that can reduce the need for costly remedial courses and improve access to the university have a high priority on his agenda, he said.

In the past two years, the university and the school system have:

Developed new requirements for high-school graduation;

Distributed 50,000 brochures to secondary students to acquaint them with the university's expectations and to encourage them to take courses in English, mathematics, and science;

Developed a seminar for teaching writing;

Instituted competency tests for 8th- to 11th-grade students in mathematics, reading comprehension, language, and writing;

Established a precollege center to help disadvantaged students who show academic potential complete high school and go on to college.

Sponsored by the university, the center is open for seven weeks during the summer. The faculty is composed primarily of university staff members, who offer courses in mathematics, chemistry, physics, communication, biology, business, and study skills. Students attend four morning classes per day.

Of the 230 high-school seniors who took the courses last year, 80 percent went on to college--50 percent to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, 15 percent to other campuses of the University of Wisconsin, and 15 percent to private colleges.

All enrolled as regular students prepared to take a full course load, according to Mr. Horton, who says that the number of participants in the seminars is expected to increase substantially next year.

Another major collaborative initiative in Milwaukee is the so-called "Marshall Plan." Under this program, staff members from the university provide counseling and services to students at Milwaukee's Marshall High School, where about 56 percent of the students are from minority groups and only 38 percent of the graduates continue their education. Throughout the year, students are invited to special activities at the college.

The project--currently involving 561 10th graders--encourages them to begin thinking of their careers and postsecondary opportunities early in their high-school years. It seeks to reduce the apprehension and anxiety of minority and disadvantaged students about attending college and to influence students early in their high-school years in the selection of proper courses.

Other new collaborative efforts discussed at the Wingspread meeting include:

In Detroit, hard hit by unemployment, collaborative efforts between Wayne State University and the Detroit Public Schools include a project identifying opportunities for employment growth in the Detroit area.

"Curriculum development, teach-er training, and other special projects are being concentrated in the fields where long term industrial growth is projected," according to Richard Levy, assistant to the superintendent of schools. "These fields include health, computer sciences, engineering, and small-business development," he adds.

Wayne State University is particularly interested in helping introduce computer instruction into the schools and in placing more students in advanced-placement programs at the university. The university is also changing its research-grant procedures to include funding for one or two high-school students in sponsored research projects.

In Cincinnati, the University of Cincinnati and the public schools completed an elaborate 50-page study outlining their present working relationship in order to determine what, if any, new programs might be undertaken.

"We listed joint programs on 31 pages, but I still can't find any guts to them. I think we derive a lot of satisfaction in multitudinous contacts, many of which are almost meaningless," says the University of Cincinnati's president, Henry R. Winkler.

New collaborative efforts include bringing technology and computer-assisted instruction into the school system, particularly to improve the quality of writing instruction.

The university will also help the school system conduct research on factors related to: effective schools, teacher and administrator performance, and the reasons parents send children to alternative schools, according to Superintendent of Schools James N. Jacobs.

In Birmingham, where educators claim they have made remarkable progress in raising reading levels of students and in improving other basic skills during the past 10 years, schools and colleges are asking the private sector to help establish new curricula that will teach the brightest students more effectively and improve instruction in higher-order intellectual skills, communication skills, science and mathematics training, and compulogical literacy, according to Superintendent of Schools Wilmer S. Cody.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is currently conducting a survey of local businesses to determine what skills they will require of future employees. University faculty members will work closely with school teachers and administrators to develop the new curricula.

Research on Effective Schools

In Seattle, Donald J. Steele Jr., superintendent of District I schools, is looking to the University of Washington primarily to provide research on effective schools, minority development, and parental attitudes.

"We're being pragmatic and asking the university to do what it does best--research. We think the university can help us become more competitive with the private schools," Mr. Steele says.

Conference Begins

Another organization concerned about improving the link between schools and colleges, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, will convene a meeting at Yale University on the subject this week.

Educators attending the "Excellence in Teaching: A Common Goal" conference will hear Ernest L. Boyer, the president of the foundation and a former U.S. commisioner of education, discuss the role of improved teacher education in developing stronger links between secondary and postsecondary institutions.

In addition, Gene Maeroff, education reporter for The New York Times and author of a special Carnegie report entitled School and College: Partnerships in Education, will discuss findings from his coast-to-coast study of the collaborative efforts that are now being firmly established.

Web Only

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login |  Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Commented