The Collaborative Schools for Innovation and Success (CSIS) project is a state-funded partnership between the College of Education and Roxhill Elementary school in Seattle. Last year, CSIS provided an opportunity for teachers and researchers to plan the ambitious collaboration. The 3DL Partnership, co-directed by Professor Leslie Herrenkohl in the College of Education and Professor Todd Herrenkohl in the School of Social Work, supported a mission and vision process that resulted in an Innovation Plan approved and funded by the state. The plan calls for the College of Education to partner with Roxhill to engage in high quality professional learning and to build out a full service community school. A community school is a research-based model in which the school serves as a hub of the community, bringing together families and community organizations in service of academic success and overall well being for students.
Roxhill has already made significant strides towards becoming a community school: implementing a weekly parent coffee hour, creating a family resource room, opening a new on-site health clinic, and launching a Positive Discipline class in Spanish to name just a few. Much of this work is being spearheaded by Roxhill parent Alejandra Diaz. Alejandra has two students at Roxhill and participated in a site visit during the planning year to see other full service community schools in Oakland and San Francisco. According to Alejandra, those visits really changed her understanding of how she could participate at Roxhill. At Hillcrest Elementary School in San Francisco, she saw some parents having a bake sale for after school programs. When she tried to ask one of the parents questions about the school, she realized the woman didn’t speak English. A native Spanish speaker, Alejandra says, “My English always kept me from doing more at school, but this woman didn’t speak any English and she was involved. That made me want to do more. I told my kids that this kind of school, a community school, is like a dream that I have and I want to work to make it happen.” Alejandra has since become the President of the PTA at Roxhill and is working hard to create a community of parents supporting their kids’ learning. She credits the CSIS project and the site visits with giving her “the courage for where I’m standing right now.”
Another component of the CSIS project is focused on better preparing teachers to work in high needs schools. The UW's teacher education programs will link directly with the work at Roxhill to expand pre-service teachers' knowledge and skills related to family engagement and community oriented teaching. The teacher candidates placed at Roxhill this year will be actively involved in the family engagement work. According to Juan Cordova, one of the teacher candidates placed at Roxhill for his student teaching, “I am excited about the opportunity to work with teachers, staff, parents, students, and the supporting community because they believe in the school. It's wonderful to see in action all of the ideas and theories we have talked about at the UW. Seeing people of different backgrounds working together to educate and empower students and their families is awesome!”
The project's professional learning activities, which were started last year and will continue this coming school year, are led by Associate Dean for Professional Learning Elham Kazemi and focused around mathematics instruction. These unique, job-embedded events developed by Dr. Kazemi are called Math Labs: these Labs provide opportunities for all the adults working at Roxhill to develop a shared vision of instruction, identify common instructional routines, build knowledge, and apply new knowledge in their classrooms with kids. According to CSIS Project Manager and Roxhill Assistant Principal, France Coppa, kids and teachers alike are excited about the work. “Kids are excited to see teachers as learners,” she says. And teachers excited and challenged by this different approach to professional learning that has them taking risks with colleague. According to Coppa, the teachers are “transferring the discussion norms for math to all subject areas so it is building a culture of discussion in our school.”
Building a culture of inquiry and collaboration at both the UW and Roxhill is a goal of the CSIS. In coming years, this change of culture should bring exciting opportunities for growth for everyone involved in the project: students, families, teachers, novice teachers, and professors.