UMD College of Education has a long history of working on meaningful educational projects in Maryland. Now, COE’s Center for Educational Innovation and Improvement (CEii) is taking project-based work to the next level and creating long-lasting partnerships with local school systems with the goal of improving student equity and learning around the state.
“The Center is the College’s way of investing in the cultivation of district partnership work so that the College is really connected to the work of K-12 public schooling,” says Jean Snell, a senior faculty specialist at COE.
Sustained partnerships between COE faculty and local, state, regional and national educational agencies and organizations are at the core of the Center’s charge, says Dr. Snell. When the Center started in fall 2017, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) became an early partner, creating an opportunity to leverage university and partner resources in action.
“The beauty of the Center is that there’s alignment and synergy around practice. There are actually opportunities for us to grow as partners as opposed to through project-based work. So, we’ve been able to galvanize our collective resources,” says PGCPS Associate Superintendent Doug Anthony (’92, M.A. ’01, Ed.D. ’16).
Together, CEii and PGCPS are taking part in The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Improvement Leadership Education and Development (iLEAD) program. One of 11 partnerships in the country participating in the iLEAD network, the partnership between CEii and PGCPS—called the Improvement Science Collaborative—brings together COE graduates, PGCPS school leaders, UMD faculty and outside experts to study school improvement research and lead improvement networks in districts working to better student outcome.
“One of the great things the Center has been able to do for us is that it has led some work that we have been involved in with the Carnegie Foundation,” says Dr. Anthony. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, both parties have equal skin in the game and have opportunities to find results germane to the work that they do, and ultimately, in the best interest of trying to advance student achievement in the district.”
The Center also supports this mission through COE academic programs, including an improvement leadership program for teachers who have proven themselves effective as classroom leaders and want to extend their influence beyond the classroom, and a doctorate program that focuses on practical problems in education.
“We were able to establish a doctoral program with UMD several years ago that had district leaders work through their doctorate degree with university faculty on particular problems of practice,” says Dr. Anthony. “So, you had [K-12] leaders dealing with district issues that brought those district issues to fold inside of their dissertations.”
The Greater Impact Conference reflects local partnerships, too, with UMD, PGCPS and Johns Hopkins University hosting the conference, which was held at UMD this year. The conference theme focused on developing equity-proficient leaders and promoting improvement science in schools, and was attended by more than 200 participants nationwide.
“The primary benefit is that we had a lot of school leaders who came away empowered about how to build better networks with university partners,” says CEii Director Segun Eubanks. “I think that this idea around improvement and improvement science, which is a new movement going on in education, it was for a lot of folks their first exposure to some of the movement’s ideas, philosophies, strategies and research to help schools, ‘Get better at getting better.’”
And with the excitement UMD partners have for the program, it seems CEii is on track to achieve these goals.
“We’ve done a lot of work with a lot of universities in the last several years, but the Center’s program in particular, has worked with us,” says Dr. Anthony. “It has definitely been a collaboration the entire time and we’re always thinking of new ways to continue to develop, enrichen and bring to some scale the work that we do. It’s a really good model from what a district and university working together could look like."
Originally published in the College’s alumni magazine, Endeavors Summer 2019 issue. Image courtesy of Katreca Neale.