The College of Education’s Link with Philadelphia Public Schools and a Look to the Future
Michael W. Smith, Professor and Chair, Teaching and Learning, College of Education
Joseph DuCette, Senior Associate Dean of Graduate Programs & Research and Professor, Educational Psychology
Wanda Brooks, Associate Dean of Teacher Education and Associate Professor, Literacy Education
Peshe Kuriloff, Professor (Teaching/Instruction), Teaching & Learning
The relationship between Temple’s College of Education and the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) extends almost as far back as the history of Temple University itself. In his history of Temple University, James Hilty says the following:
Responding to a request from the Philadelphia School District, Dean Laura Carnell organized afternoon and Saturday classes for prospective and current Philadelphia school teachers beginning in 1901, with a model school and a Department of Pedagogy soon after. (37)
Essentially, therefore, the College of Education was created at the request of the SDP and has been intimately involved with it ever since in a variety of ways. The College of Education has provided and continues to provide more teachers for the School District than any other institution of higher education. We have partnered with the District in a number of large-scale initiatives and college faculty have continuously worked with individual teachers or schools in a variety of ways. We are very excited about our current efforts to develop deep and sustainable partnerships with the District. To understand those efforts and where we are going it helps to take a look back at where we have been.
The Early Years: 1920 to 1965
As Joseph S. Butterweck comments in his history of the College, the connections between Temple and the School District throughout the first half of the 20th century were extremely close in at least two ways: first, a large majority of the College’s students were either already teaching in the District or were planning on teaching in the District; and, second, a majority of the faculty in the College had taught in the District, had obtained either a master’s or a doctoral degree from Temple, and joined the faculty as a function of this training. This use of what were considered master teachers was common in education during this time and clearly characterized Temple’s College of Education. The same was true of the College’s training of administrators, as many of the principals in the District’s Schools had been trained at Temple, and in many cases taught in the Educational Administration Program. Thus, the College had an extremely local quality as the faculty had come from the very schools to which the College was sending its graduates.
The Expansion Years: 1965 to 1980
When Temple became State-related in 1965 the College underwent an enormous expansion, growing from a faculty of around 65 to one of approximately 230. With this expansion came a change in focus as many of the faculty who were hired were no longer former teachers in the School District and were not exclusively concerned with teacher training as the focus of their research. While the training of teachers for the District was still a major part of the College’s mission, the expansion of graduate education and the increased emphasis on research produced what was basically a split within the College. On one hand, the Division of Curriculum and Instruction maintained in large part the College’s historic local connection. On the other hand, the remaining parts of the College were not primarily concerned with the preparation of teachers for the District, nor, in fact, with the preparation of teachers in general. Moreover, as Temple began to change from a local institution to a regional one and then to one with a national focus, the training of teachers began to reflect this change. Increasingly, the College viewed itself as preparing teachers for the surrounding suburban school districts as well as for the SDP. Moreover, as the College hired scholars as faculty members, the District became an arena for their research, both as an object in itself and as a source of research subjects and locations. At times, the purposes of the College’s research did not match the District’s goals, which weakened the traditional connections between the College and the District.
The Holmes Group
Partly in response to this weakened connection, Richard Englert, the Dean of the College at that time, decided that the College should join the Holmes Group as one of its founding members. The Holmes Group mandated that each participating College of Education develop an intimate relationship with a school district and to create within this district what was termed “professional development schools.” As part of this commitment, the College established partnerships with a number of Philadelphia elementary, middle and high schools, placing both student teachers and faculty within these schools, and inviting School District teachers to become instructors within the College. Among other things, the College created a parent’s center within one of the professional development schools, took over complete control of the professional development of the teachers within the schools, and provided tutoring and other professional support for the students in several of them. During the active phase of its participation in the Holmes Group, the relationship between the District and the College flourished. Unfortunately, the commitment became increasingly costly, and the College was forced to drop many of its activities.
The School Reform Commission Era
In 2001, the School District of Philadelphia was taken over by the State of Pennsylvania, and the School Reform Commission was established to oversee this takeover. As part of this reform movement, Temple was chosen to manage four area elementary schools and one middle school, schools that were known as the five schools. Although the College is commonly associated with this initiative, it was managed out of the President’s office and few College of Education faculty were extensively involved. Despite the fact that Temple managed the schools, it had no control over the make-up of the faculty and administration and could only make slight modifications to the District’s instructional program. When the original contract was completed, the University decided not to renew, in part because of the recognition that the University had no expertise in some aspects of running a school (e.g., taking care of the physical plant); in part because it had insufficient freedom in the areas that were most likely to have an impact on student achievement: the make-up of the staff and the curriculum.
The lessons of the five schools seem clear. The University in general and the College of Education in particular should invest its energies in those domains in which it has sufficient expertise and to the extent possible, should seek relationships with schools in which it can enact what we know about best practice. Indeed, those principles informed the University’s exploration of working in partnership with the SDP to found an early college high school as part of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s network. Over 70 faculty from across the University participated in planning the proposed school, which planned to offer all students a rigorous, inquiry-based interdisciplinary curriculum and to provide individualized out-of-class academic and non-academic support. Additionally, the early college high school would have provided a natural laboratory for educational and social science research. The university chose not to proceed with this initiative because of funding uncertainties.
The College continues to be dedicated to preparing the best possible teachers to serve urban schools and to doing research that will help those teachers meet the challenges they will be facing. We realize that we need to partner with K-12 schools to achieve both goals. Although the Holmes Group work and the early college high school initiative were thwarted by concerns about costs, those concerns have not stopped our striving to develop deep and sustainable partnerships with Philadelphia schools. We have learned that those partnerships need to be ongoing, mutually beneficial, and built with an acknowledgement of the different kinds of expertise partners possess. We recognize that our commitment to social justice means that we cannot merely work with the most capable students and the best performing schools, so we are committed to continue to working both with neighborhood schools and special admission magnets. We recognize that we need to do far more with in-service teachers to help them develop professionally. These recognitions will inform the next chapter of our history.
Currently, our work within Teacher Education revolves around developing a range of partnerships with District Public and Charter Schools, some deeper than others. In general, the Philadelphia school leaders we have approached (or who have approached us) have responded enthusiastically to our outreach. We work closely with those school leaders to encourage them to use field based and student teaching placements strategically to strengthen new programs and school change or improvement efforts. All of our students across all programs complete some (and sometimes all) of their field experiences in Philadelphia schools. Our new partnership model also recognizes that there is power in numbers by assigning cohorts of Temple students to each school, offering more school-based courses and meetings, and using school personnel as university faculty. This model also encourages COE faculty to teach or supervise in the field at least once every three years. We expect to implement this model fully over the upcoming years.
Our recent work has provided a solid foundation of evidence on which we can draw to improve our programs and hold ourselves accountable. We anticipate that the upcoming years will be especially challenging (but also encouraging) as we further work out the details of our school partnerships and create partner schools within a school district in great transition. We look forward to studying and refining the new practices we have introduced and to making further progress at strengthening our methods for preparing teachers to succeed in urban schools.
We also look forward to working with our colleagues from across the University to enact President Theobald’s commitment to focus Temple’s intellectual energy toward addressing the needs of K-12 education in the city. The annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association is being held in Philadelphia this year and the Social Justice Special Interest Group is sponsoring a symposium comprised of Temple faculty and our community partners to discuss the Philadelphia school closings. We hope to be able to arrange for that symposium to be held somewhere around the University and if we are successful we will invite our colleagues from across the university to join us in that discussion. As a follow-up to that symposium, our new dean, Gregory Anderson, will invite the University community to a town hall meeting to discuss what the nature of Temple’s involvement with city schools should be. We think such a conversation is especially important to have now because RCM is likely to turn our focus inward. But we cannot be the kind of university the president has committed us to be unless we articulate our commitment to the city and develop initiatives that will allow us to work together to meet that commitment. •