September 1 — 2:09 pm, 2003

District expands local university partnerships

Six Pennsylvania higher education institutions will adopt thirteen Philadelphia schools starting this fall as a result of a series of new partnerships forged by the District, school officials recently announced.

These new partners–Drexel University, Eastern University, Holy Family College, Lock Haven University, St. Joseph’s University, and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia–will provide a range of services to their partner schools, including student tutoring and mentoring, teacher certification courses, teacher professional development, business management help, and on-site medical support, District officials said.

"I want to see all of our schools with strong, dynamic, outside partners that can bring human resources to the table," said District CEO Paul Vallas. "That’s why I’m so excited about these university partnerships." �

The District has already partnered with two local universities, Temple University and University of Pennsylvania, to academically manage nine elementary and middle schools, growing out of the School Reform Commission’s decision in April 2002 to hire seven outside educational management organizations (EMOs) to run 45 Philadelphia schools.

According to Bela Shah, program associate with the Coalition for Community Schools, a national alliance of over 160 national, state, and local organizations that promotes community partnerships with schools, university-public school partnerships are beneficial to all schools regardless of their access to resources.

"It gives students an opportunity to learn beyond a textbook," Shah said adding that these partnerships can have a variety of positive effects on schools, particularly in developing innovative real-world curricula, providing professional development for teachers, and exposing K-12 students to university student mentors and higher education opportunities.

CEO Vallas agrees.

"All schools can benefit from outside partnership," Vallas said. "I’m not limiting the schools that we promote partnerships with to those schools that are struggling."

However, Shah noted that establishing university partnerships with chronically under-resourced schools does not excuse lawmakers from failing to address school funding inequities.

"Partnerships with universities or any other community organizations should not let [policy makers] off the hook when it comes to equitable funding," she said, also noting the need for legislation with program funding that encourages the formation of viable school-community partnerships.

While these new higher education partners are not responsible for managing individual school operations, the District is not ruling out the possibility that some of these institutions will eventually assume larger roles.

"Some of these universities may assume greater management responsibilities over the schools in the coming year," Vallas said. "It depends on their comfort level…and on the degree of success that they have."

Ten elementary schools (Blankenburg, Drew, Leidy, Powel, Rhoads, Bluford, Daroff, Wister, Sheridan, and Martha Washington), two high schools (Lamberton and University City), and two middle schools (MYA and Sayre), will be involved in these new partnerships.

For more information contact the District’s Office of Development at 215-299-2698.

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