Impact - Institutions of Higher Learning as Community Resource
In 1989, the Massachusetts Department of Education required the Worcester Public Schools to update its voluntary desegregation plan by adopting a "Controlled Choice" plan which included a mixture of voluntary integration and mandated student assignments in exchange for 90% State reimbursement for new school buildings and renovations. The Research Bureau suggested that to encourage as much voluntary integration as possible, the Worcester Public Schools should work with the City's colleges and other educational institutions such as the American Antiquarian Society and the Worcester Art Museum to develop programs, taking advantage of each institution's expertise, that would draw students to "magnet" schools voluntarily, even if that meant traveling beyond the neighborhood school.
In early 1990, the Research Bureau conducted an extensive survey of the existing collaborative programs between the colleges and the Worcester Public Schools. We found that the City's colleges had been working extensively with the public schools to develop new curricula, provide professional development and teacher training opportunities, internships and tutoring services, and specialized programs for public school students. But in light of data about collaborative efforts in other communities, we learned that the success of these programs depends on a serious commitment of personnel and resources by the colleges and the public schools. The Research Bureau recommended that the Colleges of the Worcester Consortium or the Worcester Public Schools employ an individual who would be responsible for working with the schools and the colleges on program development and implementation, resource development, and grant writing. This person would also coordinate the resources of other educational and cultural institutions. A more formal organizational structure would make it easier to track ongoing programs, evaluate them, and replicate successful ones. We suggested that the colleges and the public schools focus their attention primarily on professional development and curriculum development. Through courses, seminars, and summer institutes, teachers would have the opportunity to learn new subject areas and new methods which would have a direct impact on teachers' professional development and therefore on the education of their students. The Research Bureau argued that collaborative efforts between the public schools and the colleges and other institutions would provide the Worcester Public Schools with a unique dimension not found in communities without those resources.
In 1990, Dr. Gale Nigrosh was appointed by the Worcester Public Schools Superintendent to the position of Specialist for Higher Education and Business Partnerships. A few of the most significant partnerships that have been developed since her appointment include the following:
- Worcester Pipeline Collaborative (WPC) is a partnership between the Worcester Public Schools, Quinsigamond Community College, and UMass Medical School which began 10 years ago. Other colleges which have been members are Assumption College, Mass College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Worcester State College. The purpose is to develop a "pipeline" for the health sciences for students in the North Quadrant and the Worcester Vocational School. WPC seeks to increase the number of minority and other disadvantaged students entering careers in health care and biomedical research. WPC activities include mentoring, job shadowing, internships, tours, laboratory opportunities, after-school science programs, visiting-scientists programs, academic support for students, and fostering parental involvement to enhance mathematics and science skills. The "pipeline" model has since been replicated in other Worcester Public Schools quadrants.
- Humanities Scholars Collaborative (HSC) offers highly motivated high school students a yearlong program structured around a theme in American history/American culture. During the academic year, students spend a day each at four different college campuses, beginning the day's visit with a panel of three professors who address the theme from their different humanities disciplines. Since 1995, ten Worcester County public high schools (Algonquin Regional, Auburn, Grafton, Millbury, Northborough/Southborough, Northbridge, Oxford, Sutton, Wachusett Regional and Worcester's Doherty High School) each select 10 to 15 students annually to participate in the HSC. Four colleges/universities have been with the HSC since its inception: Assumption College, Clark University, College of the Holy Cross and Worcester State College. Becker College and UMass Medical School have also participated in the HSC when their faculty brought particular expertise to a humanities topic.
- Professional Development Schools Collaborative Network is a partnership between Worcester Public Schools and the education departments of Colleges of Worcester Consortium institutions to apply the expertise of college and school faculty to training of student teachers. The goal is to improve the education of prospective K-12 teachers, while providing professional development opportunities for public school personnel and college faculty working at the partner schools.