Bank Street Leads Effort To Strengthen Low-Performing Schools
Colleges and universities have tremendous resources to offer local schools that are working hard to strengthen teaching and learning. And local schools help colleges and universities ensure that their teacher and leader preparation programs are grounded in the realities of everyday practice. How can these natural partners get together?
A unique answer has been provided by the Adelaide Weismann Center for Innovative Leadership in Education, located at Bank Street College, which has supported collaborative inquiry and improvement efforts in more than 30 New York City public schools.
Four years ago, the Weismann Center launched the LDRS Consortium, a partnership with Fordham University’s National Center for Schools and Communities and Teachers College, Columbia University. LDRS stands for the Laboratory for the Design and Redesign of Schools (LDRS). The initiative brings the resources of the partner institutions to bear on the challenges of improving low-performing schools in New York City, according to Rima Shore, who directs the Weismann Center. LDRS is the centerpiece of the Center’s agenda.
Shore co-founded the LDRS Consortium with Margaret Terry Orr (who was then at Teachers College and has since joined the Bank Street faculty). Other members of the LDRS steering group are Sabrina Hope King of Bank Street, Kenneth Grover of Bank Street, John Beam of Fordham, and Ellen Meier of Teachers College.
“Considering Bank Street’s tremendous depth in everything having to do with the life of the classroom, I thought it would be good to be able to draw on other institutions for additional resources in organizational development and community outreach,” Shore said. She adds that this is one of several initiatives at Bank Street to support low-performing public schools in the Metropolitan area.
With Bank Street as the lead partner, the LDRS Consortium received “approved vendor” status from the New York City Department of Education, and LDRS became eligible for contracts to help support and restructure low-performing public schools and districts, with an emphasis on leadership development. In 2004, the consortium began working intensively with Region Six in Brooklyn, an area that encompasses neighborhoods filled with many low-income families and recent immigrants, Shore said.
“Since then, we have worked at all levels of schools, though we are most active in middle schools,” Shore said. Last year, two large middle schools asked LDRS for help in reorganizing into smaller “houses,” so students could relate to a smaller number of teachers and students and feel a greater sense of belonging, she said. The plans have been put into effect.
Last year, the Weismann Center expanded its staff and the scope of its work in public schools, adding more middle schools, an elementary school and several small high schools. In addition to supporting the students with reorganized schools, the Weismann Center also reaches out to principals, providing workshops and seminars.
“Most of the schools have made long strides,” according to Shore. “School and regional leaders have been very positive about our work, and as the Department of Education reorganizes, principals continue to reach out to us.” LDRS is especially eager to help schools with the inquiry process that is now a required part of the Department of Education’s new accountability framework.
The Weismann Center’s founding was made possible by a gift of $1.5 million to be used to bring a new leadership center to Bank Street. The gift, made by Dietrich (Dick) Weismann, a long-time supporter of Bank Street, was to honor the 90th birthday of his mother, Adelaide. Mrs. Weismann is a 1946 alumna of Bank Street and was actively involved with the college well into the 1980s.#