Urban 'Partners' Discuss Need For Leaders, Minority Teachers

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The latest informal assessment of a nationwide program designed to develop collaborative projects between urban schools and universities indicates that the program is yielding benefits beyond what was anticipated.

But participants also suggest that among the next critical steps will be to draw principals more fully into collaborative efforts and to develop programs that will encourage more minority students to enter the teaching profession.

More than 60 school and college officials representing collaborative projects in 16 major cities being coordinated by the National Association of State University and Land Grant Colleges (nasulgc), met at the the Wingspread conference center in Racine, Wis., last month to discuss achievements, challenges, and new directions for nasulgc's Urban University-Urban School Collaborative Program.

That effort, which has become one of the most extensive of its kind, was launched in 1981 with support from the Ford Foundation.

According to Nevin C. Brown, assistant director of the office of special programs/urban affairs for nasulgc, participants called school principals an essential link in school-college collaboration but said they were often left out of collaborative efforts.

Involvement of Principals

"Principals must balance events in school and the needs of parents, teachers, and students with administrative demands from the district office, leaving them with little time to become involved in developing innovative programs with local colleges," Mr. Brown said.

Robert L. Henley, superintendent of the Independence (Mo.) School District, noted that the principal is the key leader at the building level, as effective-schools research points out, and for that reason can be extremely important in developing long-term collaboration.

Consequently, he and other participants agreed, one key direction for school-college collaboration will be to use partnerships between schools and academe to develop training programs for principals.

Attracting Minority Teachers

Another will be to develop means to draw more minority students into the teaching profession.

According to Mr. Henley, although the situation varies from state to state, in Missouri some 50 percent of the teaching force will retire in the next 10 years, creating a massive demand for teachers who will be required to meet higher state-mandated certification standards.

"It is going to be an enormous headache to get qualified teachers," particularly qualified minority teachers, he said. The problem will be compounded, he noted, because there are "lots of opportunities for well-educated minority students. Schools will compete with computer, sales, and other careers that will draw the pool of talented minorities."

"The issue of teacher demand seems to have come as a shock to university people," according to Lee R. McMurran, superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools. He said that within the past 12 to 18 months, there has been a "complete turnaround" in demand that universities are not prepared to meet.

His district will be hiring hundreds--not a handful--of new teachers each year, he said. "Getting minority students on campus and in the classroom to represent the proportionate racial makeup will be a real crisis."

To help solve the problem, the Milwaukee district has developed a teacher-education program at Riverside University High School linked with the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee that brings 9th graders into a curriculum track that leads to a teaching degree eight years later.

Rapid Growth

The urban school-college collaborative network, aimed at developing programs to better prepare inner-city students for work and college, has grown rapidly since 1981, when it brought together school, college, business, and municipal leaders in three cities, according to Mr. Brown of nasulgc.

Some eight cities were involved by 1983 and the project doubled in size to 16 cities last year after receiving a $150,000 grant from the Ford Foundation and an additional $50,000 expansion grant from the Exxon Education Foundation.

Last year, the network also hired a director, Charles I. Bunting, who formerly was acting director of the federal government's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education and executive assistant to former Secretary of Education Shirley Hufstedler.

Perhaps one of the most encouraging developments, Mr. Brown said, is that a few cities involved in the network--most notably Milwaukee and Tampa--have received support from their state legislatures or regional foundations to significantly expand their programs and aid an increasing number of students.

Programs Vary

The collaborative efforts range from programs oriented to providing jobs to those emphasizing improved instruction. For example, under the "Boston Compact," local businesses agree to give priority in hiring to Boston Public Schools graduates, and area colleges accept more local students and develop support mechanisms for them provided the school system lowers dropout rates and improves performance in basic skills.

In the Kansas City, Mo., area, 12 suburban districts are working with the Kansas City school district and the University of Missouri-Kansas City on a number of projects, the most significant of which focuses on improving mathematics and science instruction. The school-university partnerships include advanced-study institutes, elementary science programs, summer enrichment, and regular meetings between mathematics and science teachers and faculty at the university.

Beyond 'Basics'

The keynote speaker at the conference was Marc S. Tucker, executive director of the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy. He said that providing students with "basic skills" has become an inadequate purpose for schooling and that school districts must work to educate all students in a wide range of intellectual abilities (such as critical thinking and problem solving) to prepare them for a lifetime in which they might be expected to hold a variety of jobs demanding continual retraining.

"We are caught between a rock and a hard place," he said. "Though the economy requires an influx of much better educated new entrants into the labor force, the number of young people as a proportion of the population is actually headed down."

Of that group, a rising proportion is made up of low-income and minority youngsters, the very students "schools have had the most difficulty providing with ... a first-class education."

Those attending the meeting represented collaborative projects in Albequerque, N.M.; Birmingham, Ala.; Boston; Buffalo; Cincinnati; Detroit; Kansas City, Mo; Knoxville, Tenn.; Louisville, Ky.; Milwaukee; New York City; Oakland, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; Tampa, Fla.; Wichita, Kan.; and a consortium of the Ohio cities of Akron, Cleveland, and Kent.

Vol. 04, Issue 34

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