It's a sunny, unseasonably warm late-autumn Tuesday in midtown Springfield. The playground at Boyd Elementary School is filled with kids at play. Inside, Courtney Becker's second graders are scattered through the classroom and library. Paired one-on-one with Drury students, the kids are learning to read. "[We've had] a chance to build a relationship. It's nice to know that you can count on going to that class and that person is going to be there every week," says Drury senior Becky Lins of her time with Boyd/Berry student Garret Brewer. Yes, this is a typical Tuesday for Becker's class; if only every student in Springfield was so fortunate.
A few blocks away, Pipkin Middle School students receive personal attention from Drury students as well. During the course of the year, Drury students help organize academic enrichment activities such as science fair entries, Model United Nations teams, mathematics relays, art shows and entries for the language arts fair. Other students volunteer to form chess clubs, build model cars, assist with coaching school athletic teams, practice music or help children with homework. The college students receive as much benefit from the experience as the middle school children because of the joy that comes from teaching and sharing.
|Central High School program facilitator Ali Traub|
Down the street at Central High School, the 18-month-old partnership with Drury brings a new sense of community to an already changing school. A $22 million expansion opened in January, making CHS simultaneously Springfield's newest and oldest high school. As Springfield's most diverse school, Central continues to reach across barriers of race, economic levels, academic abilities and special needs. Guided by the Comer process and supported by the partnership with Drury and Yale, principal Everett Isaacs and program facilitator Ali Traub strive to improve communication and understanding between the faculty and community, and prepare all students for success after high school.
The work happening in all three schools is based on the Comer school development process (see page 6 for details). In the hands of dedicated teachers, administrators, Drury faculty and students, the Comer process has taken on a local flavor: a spirit of collaboration and commitment.
Committed to the Neighborhood
Drury and the Springfield Public Schools' version of the School Development Program aims to enhance student achievement and success in the three schools in Drury's neighborhood. These schools serve a large number of Springfield's most disadvantaged students. "In the middle of Victorian homes and the Midtown neighborhood is the Missouri Hotel," says Director of the School of Education and Child Development Dr. Dan Beach, referring to Springfield's largest homeless shelter which is located a few blocks from each partner school. "The achievement of the students at Boyd/Berry is pretty remarkable when you consider what the children are coming from in terms of being uprooted and experiencing the stress of poverty."
"Drury has taken steps to insure that
the most disadvantaged children will
get a chance to live the American
dream by maximizing their chance to
get an education that promotes
intellectual and personal
Dr. Edward Joyner, executive director of the Yale School Development Program
Drury's focus on school improvement in this urban setting and the strong ties between the university and the school district are earning praise from Yale faculty. "Drury has taken steps to insure that the most disadvantaged children will get a chance to live the American dream by maximizing their chances to get an education that promotes intellectual and personal development," says Dr. Edward Joyner, assistant clinical professor in Yale's Child Study Center and executive director of the Yale School Development Program. "Drury is doing a remarkable job with the three schools and this will have a powerful impact on the lives of children who have a heritage of poverty. They are helping children break the cycle of failure and hopelessness that often goes hand in hand with poverty."
Bringing the partnership to the elementary, middle and high schools that serve one neighborhood allows school students to progress through a system with standards, processes and practices consistent from one level to the next.
The unique nature of Drury's involvement with these three schools finds favor with school district administrators who realize that the benefits come at little or no cost to the schools. Dr. Phyllis Chase, chief of staff for Springfield schools, previously worked in another Comer district, and noticed the difference when she came to Springfield. "It does appear that Comer has identified Drury as having one of the better relationships in terms of the support provided in the articulation agreements with universities and school districts," she says. "[In the previous district] we certainly did not see the type of support and involvement that I'm aware of here in Springfield."
Committed to Working Together
As a close physical neighbor, Drury has worked with Boyd/Berry since 1983. Adequately preparing students to teach in urban schools has long been a concern of the teacher education faculty and President John E. Moore, Jr. "We thought it would be helpful," he says, "to develop some partnerships with Springfield Public Schools, particularly the schools in our neighborhood - Boyd/Berry Elementary and Pipkin Middle School - to make arrangements for our students to have experiences in these schools."
Bringing in the Comer school development program deepened those partnerships, creating an environment that allows Drury students, school teachers and children, and Drury instructors to develop their talents and skills. College students develop the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes needed to become effective teachers. University faculty grow more skilled in working with economically disadvantaged youth, and they increase their credibility in the teaching of professional education methods courses. Public school teachers increase their sense of professionalism as educators by working closely with pre-service teachers. Children develop a wonderful sense of connection to the Drury campus, and start thinking about an educational future that once seemed out of reach. Additionally, the children thrive with individual attention. Perhaps most significant, however, is the response of the parents. Parents see the partnership as a way to provide more hope and beneficial experiences for their children; a sharp increase in PTA memberships followed the partnership's arrival at each school.
That in-depth attention from a coordinated group of concerned parties is what it takes to transform obsolete, entrenched teaching methods, says Yale's Dr. Joyner. "We are still operating out of the old paradigm that looks at the school as the unit of change and ignores the institutions that schools must rely on to educate all children well. The family, faith-based organizations, economic opportunities, community service organizations and the colleges and universities that prepare the professional staff that work in school all bear some responsibility for school effects. It does take a village and all the institutions in the village must be connected by a common focus to prepare the next generation to fulfill its responsibility as citizens in a nation that relies on each generation to move us closer to the democratic ideal."
|Andrea Cox, Drury student and pre-service teacher|
Committed to Education
In Andrea Cox's science classroom at Pipkin Middle School, five Drury teacher-education students are hard at work helping children prepare for an upcoming science fair. "This kind of opportunity is invaluable for a pre-service teacher," says Cox. "Other programs I'm aware of make students wait two or three years before they get hands-on classroom experience. At that point, if you decide teaching isn't for you, you're several years behind in completing another degree. At Drury, the students discover early on if teaching is right for them. That has to help with teacher burn-out."
The importance of early classroom experience is echoed by Dr. James Comer: "Teachers must be better prepared to do their work in a diverse array of school environments," he wrote in a recent article for the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice. "They must be able to do more than just pass on information. They must find ways to create an environment that accords them respect and authority, and to engage students in academic learning. Teachers need adequate pre-service preparation and a subsequent system for ongoing support and professional development throughout their careers."
The Springfield-Drury-Yale partnership provides for education at every phase of a teacher's career, including tuition remission in Drury's master in education program for teachers at Comer schools, a benefit of tremendous importance. "This has allowed Pipkin to easily attract and hire competent and motivated teachers, a key to increases in achievement outcomes," wrote Dr. Sharri Harwick, principal at Pipkin.
According to Dr. Dan Beach, Drury also benefits. "This program is strengthening the Drury University teacher education program by improving the professional knowledge of the public school teachers where we concentrate our field experiences." Currently, 33 teachers from the two schools take classes at Drury though the tuition remission program. An additional seven teachers have completed their master in education degrees.
The Springfield - Drury - Yale
partnership provides for education at
every phase of a teacher's career,
including tuition remission in Drury's
master in education program for
teachers at Comer schools, a benefit of
Andrea Cox completed hers in 2000. She appreciates the opportunity Drury offered her. "I was going to work on my master's degree anyway," she says. "I was already teaching at Pipkin when the tuition remission was offered to us. This is a phenomenal gift that Drury provides."
Jay Williamson, a principal's aide at Boyd/Berry, is quick to express his pleasure at the opportunity to complete his graduate degree. After earning an undergraduate degree in theater 12 years ago, Jay has returned to the classroom to work on his master's degree. At the same time, he is completing the course work necessary to be certified in secondary education in speech, theater and English. "Of course it's been great that I've gotten a break on my tuition," he says. "Drury is unique in that I'm able to take my education classes at the master's level and get my certification at the same time."
As the most comprehensive working model of the Comer School Development Program, many are interested in how the Springfield partnership creates its success. Drury hosted one national conference in 2000; another is set for April, 2002. The Springfield partnership also was featured at Yale's National Academy for Leadership in Education 2001 Summer Policy Institute.
Commitment, competence and connection are what make this particular partnership work. "Collaborative efforts are always beneficial," says President Moore. "You can do more with a team than you can working by yourself. The connection we have with Yale has helped us leverage the good things that are going on here."
From the outside, the red brick walls of Boyd/Berry, Pipkin and Central signify schools rooted in neighborhood tradition. Inside each school, however, a new generation of students reap deep and lasting benefits from a new approach to creating a healthy school. Likewise, a shared awareness of the need to reinvent educational methods, combined with a respect for successful traditions, have forged a unique partnership between Drury and the Springfield Public Schools.