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Schools of Education Work to Improve Urban Schools


The Council of the Great City Colleges of Education, which includes deans from 76 universities, collaborates with school superintendents who belong to the Council of the Great City Schools to help improve urban education. Donna Browder Evans of Ohio State University, the Council of the Great City Colleges of Education's new chairperson, is hopeful the collaboration will produce teachers better prepared to teach in urban schools -- and higher-achieving urban students. Included: Council of the Great City Colleges of Education plans for working with urban school leaders.

Donna Browder Evans
Donna Browder Evans, dean of Ohio State University's College of Education, recently was named chairperson of the Council of the Great City Colleges of Education, an affiliate of the Council of the Great City Schools. Browder Evans is a former classroom teacher, guidance counselor, and mathematics teacher.

Education World: Why did you want to be chairperson of the Council of the Great City Colleges of Education?

Donna Browder Evans: I believe in the organization, and urban education always has been an interest of mine. I really respect the work the Council of the Great City Schools does.

EW: What are your goals?

Browder Evans: My goals are framed in light of what we have decided as a group to do. We are committed to working reciprocally with urban school systems. We are committed to preparing quality education professionals to work in urban schools. We are committed to coming up with solutions to urban school challenges. We want to try to develop a mutual system of support for colleges of education. We want to work together for systematic improvement in urban school settings. We also want to disseminate information and work on policy.

EW: What role do you think schools of education should play in urban school reform?

Browder Evans: I think they should have a partnership role. This is not a new initiative, but it is an important one. You can't prepare people outside of the national agenda. It is important that we are all on the same page of the same hymnal. We have to be very cognizant of what schools need from us.

One of the council's roles is to share the information that moves us forward. We learned from school superintendents that we are not preparing our teachers to teach reading. So we are identifying exemplary models for improving the skills of new and experienced teachers. We hope to share three or four exemplary reading programs in schools. The plan is to develop a national cohort of experts for the teaching of reading. The question is how can we meld our expertise with that of people in the field. Teaching reading is the joint focus between the colleges of education and the urban schools.

EW: Should there be a specialized curriculum for urban teachers?

Browder Evans: I think we should have looked at that before; what are the characteristics of successful urban teachers? Historically, we have prepared teachers, and thought they could teach anywhere. Now we realize that teachers need experience in urban schools as part of their preparation.

EW: What are some of the biggest challenges facing urban school districts?

Browder Evans: Urban school districts face multiple challenges. I would say the issue of reading instruction is the biggest. Another major problem is recruiting and retaining competent teachers. States are creating alternative paths to certification, but not much evidence exists as to their effectiveness. We've proposed to the council that we research exemplary alternative paths to licensure. We hope to develop some consensus and guidelines for alternative programs and share that information so it can be replicated.

EW: How do you think the No Child Left Behind Act will affect urban education?

Browder Evans: It all blends in with what we have to do. The Council of the Great City Schools still is speaking with [U.S. Secretary of Education] Rod Paige. We have been pulling out the pieces of legislation we need to act on. The message [from the Department of Education] is very clear; there are boundaries we need to pay attention to. We also have called for research related to the issues. We think the No Child Left Behind Act raises significant issues for colleges of education as well as for school districts.

This e-interview is part of the Education World weekly Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.