How do we transform education? Team up.
Thatâ€™s what researchers and educational leaders from the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania say.
Ira Harkavy, the Netter Centerâ€™s founding director, along with Rita Axelroth Hodges, the assistant director, and Joann Weeks, the associate director, collaborated with Matthew Hartley, an associate professor from Pennâ€™s Graduate School of Education to publish the lead article in the Peabody Journal of Education.
As a part of a themed issue focusing on higher educationâ€™s role in public school reform and community engagement, â€śThe Promise of University-Assisted Community Schools to Transform American Schooling: A Report From the Field, 1985-2012â€ť details the development of Pennâ€™s partnerships with local schools and community organizations in West Philadelphia. It also outlines how Pennâ€™s University-assisted community school approach has been successfully replicated nationally.
The approach is grounded in 20th century education reformer, philosopher and psychologist John Deweyâ€™s theory that a neighborhood school can function as the core of the neighborhood, providing comprehensive services and working together with other community institutions to solve problems in a rapidly changing world.
The authors say that institutions of higher learning should make helping to solve the problem of the American schooling system a top priority.
Citing concrete examples from more than 20 years of working across West Philadelphia and across the country, the authors explore the potential for developing university-assisted community schools as an effective approach to school reform, from pre-K through higher education. But, researchers say, the potential for impact can be much more far-reaching.
Harkavy calls on higher education to actively engage with public schools and their communities.
â€śSplendid abstract, contemplative, inner ivory tower isolation will neither shed intellectual light nor produce positive democratic change,â€ť Harkavy, an associate vice president at Penn, said. â€śFrom our experience, we believe that university-assisted community schools constitute the best practical means for democratically transforming universities, schools and communities, in order to develop participatory democracy.â€ť
The article also examines promising research findings about the Netter Centerâ€™s approach, tips for adaptation elsewhere around the country and policy implications surrounding university-assisted community schooling.
The article is available at www.nettercenter.upenn.edu/sites/netter_internal/files/Harkavy_Hartley_Hodges_Weeks_Peabody_Journal.pdf.