Professors work in conjunction with the Greater Crenshaw Educational Partnership, which is part of the Los Angeles Urban League’s larger initiative to improve the area with the help of local institutions and community members.
“The whole goal is to create a new model of schooling that will work for urban communities for which current models have not worked very well in the past,” said Sylvia Rousseau, professor of education and GCEP interim executive director.
Last year, Rousseau helped Crenshaw separated by into small learning communities that have themes such as social justice or business. Within each community, teachers will apply problem-based learning strategies and learn to integrate multiple strategies in relation to one problem.
“[Problem-based learning] focuses on a contemporary problem and uses it as a focal point. For example, if the problem were how to develop more entrepreneurs, then in English and math and social science and science, learning will be related to solving that problem,” said Sandra Kaplan, one of six Rossier professors providing training.
Last year, Rossier professors trained two small groups of Crenshaw teachers in areas including literacy, numeracy, assessment and special education. The program plans to increase the number of teachers it trains throughout the year and focus on how to sustain progress in the school.
“The real model that you want to move toward is something called the professional development school, which has the continuing presence of faculty helping the school,” Rousseau said. “It’s a collaborative model where the faculty is working with teachers to improve the school.”
The collaboration between Rossier professors and Crenshaw teachers is key to creating the best strategies for students, Rousseau said.
“Communities know things about their own resources, know their own values and have tremendous funds of knowledge. The universities also have tremendous funds of knowledge. We have to find ways over time to structure our resources in a way that comes together, to educate a youth that have not been educated very well in the past,” Rousseau said.
In the past year after applying this philosophy of community, university and school collaboration, Crenshaw has already seen results.
“We saw a higher retention of ninth-grade students — and most research says we lose most students at the ninth grade — and saw a significant jump in graduating,” Rousseau said. “The first year showed us that we’re creating an infrastructure that shows continuing progress. Those structures lead to more concrete test results.”
The primary goal of the Rossier-Crenshaw partnership is to ensure that it continues to be collaborative and productive so that Crenshaw can continually grow.
“We’re all committed to the idea of taking theory into practice. The things we read about and write about are being implemented, and that’s very exciting,” Kaplan said. “The one goal is to get students college ready so they can be more successful.”