Penn partners with three low-performing public schools

The Graduate School of Education’s new partnership with three low-performing schools in West Philadelphia is the beginning of a network for improving education in West Philadelphia.

Under the agreement between GSE and the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, GSE will receive funding to help improve student achievement at Henry C. Lea Elementary School at 47th and Locust streets, Alexander Wilson Elementary School at 46th and Woodland, and William C. Bryant Elementary School at 60th and Cedar.

Rather than managing the schools, GSE’s role will be to advise, assist and provide services in curriculum; professional and leadership development; parental and community involvement; student assessment; and student academic support and enrichment.

Nancy Streim, associate dean for graduate and professional education at GSE, whose role it is to manage Penn’s relationship to the schools and to bring to the schools resources from across the campus and outside the University, said, for example, that faculty from GSE and elsewhere at Penn who have expertise in child development, mental health, classroom management and behavior management will address teachers’ and principals’ concerns about student behavior. “We recognize that you can’t just attend to the instruction if you don’t first attend to what makes for a safe, happy environment for children to learn,” Streim said.

But the focus will be on instruction, especially in the priority areas of reading, writing, math and science. GSE is planning with the principals a year-long professional development calendar to give the staffs at all three schools a chance to participate in training programs in those four subjects.

For example, Practice Professor of Education Jeanne Vissa, will be leading curriculum improvement efforts, Streim said. “She might lead a weekly professional development study group for teachers in grades K to 2 from all of the schools one week, and maybe the next week, do the same sort of thing with teachers from grades 3 to 5 from all the schools.”

In addition to that, said Streim, “We are working to bring together the staff from all three schools and the Penn-Assisted School [newly named the Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School] where there are common issues.”

Streim expressed excitement about this pooling of knowledge about what works. “It begins to form a network of schools, which was always the vision for how the Penn-Assisted School would contribute to education in West Philadelphia. Staff from the Penn-Assisted School will share with their colleagues from other schools. Teachers might visit one another’s classes to see other ways of doing things.”

Originally published on September 5, 2002