The School Empowerment Project

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The School Empowerment Project

Over the past 15 years, as a university faculty member, and as Associate Director of theInstitute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) at UCLA (2000-2011) and as the Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) at Teachers College, Columbia University (2010-present) IUME Director Ernest Morrell has developed a five-part school empowerment model that includes: 1) School Culture; 2) Instructional Leadership; 3)Youth Engagement; 4) Parent and Community Engagement; and 5) Social Supports. Our long-term work with schools and districts has attempted to address each of the five areas while shorter-term work has focused on one or two areas of immediate need. 

School Leadership School Culture (or School Climate) 
With respect to developing or enhancing a positive school climate, our foci include: a.developing a Student-centered culture; b. developing a research-based culture (or a culture where practices are based upon existing research and theory); c. developing a data-driven culture where administrators and faculty are using formative and summative data to guide decisions; d. Character development and social awareness that emphasizes social and emotional learning, anti-bullying, and service ; and e. 21st century learning communities.

Instructional Leadership
Our work with teachers focuses on developing teachers as instructional leaders who use theory and data to guide classroom practice. The goal is to develop reflective practitioners who are able to differentiate instruction and who can develop engaging curricula that connect to students’ home cultures, that meet standards, and that involve 21st century learning.Finally we hope to incorporate teachers into local and national professional learning communities where they can share their work with and learn from colleagues. There are six components to the instructional leadership component. They include: a. Rigorous and relevant instruction; b. a coaching model; c. a collaborative teacher inquiry model; d.Literacy across the curriculum; e. 21st century learning; and f. Participation in professional communities.

Youth Engagement
In addition to working with building leaders and teachers, the school empowerment model addresses youth directly. For twenty years I have worked with youth as a teachers, a coach,and the director of a national program that engages youth as community leaders. In our work with youth we help to identify positive habits of successful students and we also connect learning to service in the community and the greater society. Some aspects of this work include having students take a pledge of personal accountability and helping students to develop activities that allow them to help their communities while also learning academic skills. I can provide some examples of websites that describe these programs upon request.Three areas of focus in our youth engagement component include: a. a personal accountability model; b. a social responsibility model; and c. a Black and Latino male initiative that focuses on increasing the engagement and achievement of Black and Latino males.

Parental and Community Partnerships
Work with parents includes helping parent coordinators (when they exist) to create materials and programming for parents. We also help to create workshops that help parents to learn how to assist their children with literacy, with homework, and with college preparation.Some foci of the parent and community partnerships component include: a. Parent engagement workshops; b. Consultations with parent coordinators; c. developing or identifying materials for parents related to health, homework assistance, promoting literacy,etc.; d. Planning family literacy nights (K-8); and e. Planning college readiness workshops(9-12).

Social Supports

Finally, we recognize that there are many non-school factors that impact a child’s ability to succeed in school. More and more, schools and districts have been compelled to develop programs and support systems that address these factors. My role as an institute director has been to help schools and districts identify partners and programs that address these needs. I have also worked to help schools identify funding streams to support these efforts. Some ofour areas of focus have included: a. Extended day programs; b. Breakfast and lunch programs; c. Health education programs; d. Sports programs; and e. Counseling programs 

Schools and Districts we worked with in 2011-2012 include:
1. Central HS, Newark, NJ
2. Orange HS, Orange, NJ
3. Orange Preparatory Academy, Orange, NJ
4. Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies, Brooklyn, NY
5. Wadleigh Middle School, Harlem, NY
6. Guion Creek Middle School, Indianapolis, IN
7. Watson School for Boys, Gary, IN
8. Woodrow Wilson HS, Los Angeles, CA
9. Theodore Roosevelt HS, Los Angeles, CA
10. Crenshaw HS, Los Angeles, CA