Partnerships for Education Strives to Increase Student Success in Urban Schools
Corliss D. Wood, administrator of UWM’s Partnerships for Education, has a local take on the Ethiopian proverb, It takes a whole village to raise a child.
“I say that it takes a whole community to raise students in Milwaukee public schools. It comes back to yourself — what role or part can I play in being a part of this solution?” Wood said.
She feels that Partnerships for Education has played an integral part in connecting UWM with teachers and students at Milwaukee's schools. “UWM prides itself in working within the urban community.”
Partnerships for Education, a community-wide effort to revitalize Milwaukee’s urban schools, is led by UWM and the School of Education. The initiative came out of The Milwaukee Idea, a model created by former Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to help UWM increase awareness in the community and to establish partnerships within it.
Supported by over $26 million in federal grants, UWM, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), Milwaukee Area Technical College, and educational institutions throughout southeastern Wisconsin have joined forces to meet three main goals:
- prepare more students for college (particularly those from culturally and linguistically diverse families)
- create and expand a strong, diverse and energetic teacher workforce
- integrate technology into teacher education programs.
Preparing Students for College
Partnerships for Education prepares more students for the rigors of college. Wood says that the program works with schools throughout the Milwaukee area, but UWM has two partnership schools that have been given the name “university” — Riverside University High School and Hartford Avenue University K-8 School — where she coordinates a variety of programs.
Partnerships for Education has been working closely with Riverside students through the UWM Pre-College Academy, Upward Bound, TRIO and Gear Up programs to make sure students are getting college preparatory courses — as early as ninth grade. Wood says Partnerships for Education also involves parents in these programs since they are such an integral part of the child’s education.
To aid those students who might fall behind, Partnerships for Education helps bring tutors together with schools requesting help. They are also working with the Milwaukee Partnership Academy (MPA) to make sure the tutors are prepared by developing a curriculum training model.
Wood says this is an important project because too often in the past volunteers would give their time but burn out after a few weeks because they didn’t have access to training, mentoring and resources.
“By developing a comprehensive tutoring and mentoring curriculum, every volunteer will get the same message and information about working with the children of MPS.”
Expanding a Strong and Diverse Teacher Workforce
Another one of Partnerships for Education’s goals is to increase the retention of new teachers by providing mentors. Wood says that a high percentage of teachers leave the profession after 5 years.
“The reason for that is two-fold,” Wood said. “One, they didn’t have a mentor to stand beside them and help them with any difficulties or challenges. And two, teaching is not what they thought it would be. It’s an interactive relationship between teachers and students, requiring long hours and commitment.”
So each semester, Wood connects 20 to 30 UWM faculty and staff with various schools where they work as mentors and resources for both new teachers and veteran teachers. They talk to teachers, provide guidance and share expertise. They also offer professional staff development, help with curriculum development and assist with in-service training.
Integrating Technology into Teacher Education Programs
Offering resources in technology and training is another tenant of Partnerships for Education. When Assistant Professor Simone Conceição came to Wood with an idea to help teachers at Shorewood High School learn more about technology advances, Wood saw a way Partnerships for Education could help. Shorewood High School applied for a mini-grant through Partnerships for Education and received $3,000 to help run a two-week course taught by Conceição, a Department of Administrative Leadership faculty member. Teachers learned how to implement and develop a course on Web-based technology for their students.
Partnerships for Education is also working with the MPA’s Family Literacy and Tutoring workgroup to develop a searchable Web directory of community resources. Two years ago, Wood, along with Jennifer Wentzell, program assistant with Partnerships for Education, created a database of tutoring and family literacy sites throughout Milwaukee. They are now collaborating with MPS, David P. Clark, assistant professor in the Department of English, and the Institute for Service Learning, to create a more comprehensive city-wide directory that will be launched in December. For more information about Partnerships for Education projects, visit www.edpartnr.soe.uwm.edu.